Art via Re-appropriation: Me First and The Gimme Gimmes

28 04 2010

I am probably one of the few people in the world that can say they have a favorite cover band. By-and-large, the job of a cover band is to take bad songs and make them much, much worse. Even a competent cover of a good song usually suffers by comparison.

To be a good cover band, you really can’t play “straight” covers of a song. You need to use the old standard as a jumping-off point for a new artistic creation. The easiest way to make a cover song “novel” is to perform it in a different genre.

There’s a plague of pop-punk song cover out there. Most of them are lazy and uninteresting. Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are an exception. The band’s a supergroup comprised of members of heavyweight acts including Lagwagon, NOFX, and The Foo Fighters. The lead singer, Spike Slawson, apparently worked in the mail order department of the Fat Wreck Chords record label. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes create some of the most enthusiastic, upbeat, silly, and enjoyable music in the world of pop-punk today.

There are two things I really like about Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. One: they like to incorporate guitar riffs from famous punk songs into their covers, so you get to play “spot the reference” as you listen. Two: Not only do they make it a practice to cover a wide variety of genres, but they also cover a lot of genres that get overlooked by other, lesser artists. In fact, they generally represent a different genre for each of their albums. Like

Singer-songwriter tunes on 1997’s “Have a Ball.”

Showtunes on 1999’s “Are a Drag.”

Pop hits from the 1960’s on 2001’s “Blow in the Wind”

R&B in 2003’s “Take a Break.”

Country & Western in 2006’s “Love Their Country.”

And more singer-songwriter tunes on 2008’s “Have Another Ball.”

The one album that doesn’t conform to the “one-genre-per-shot” form is 2004’s “Ruin Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah.” For that album, they performed live at an actual kid’s Bar Mitzvah. Tell me that’s not awesome.

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