Leave it to punk-rock-superstar-cover-project-extraordinaires Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to make America look good. Usually us U.S. folk will see Japanese bands covering American tunes, but when is the last time you saw someone from the states actually take the time to cover a Japanese pop song as well as turn it into a punk rock jam?
The Gimmes have been making covering songs cool since the 90s with help from Fat Wreck Chords. Featuring members of NOFX, Swingin’ Utters and even Foo Fighters, the Gimmes are not your Friday night hole-in-the-wall cover band. By taking tracks your parents and probably grandparents listened to before you were accidentally conceived, the Gimmes add a punk rock style and make the songs tolerable. I remember the first time I heard the Gimmes cover Elton John’s”Rocket Man”. I found the track on a free comp CD I snagged at a Warped Tour in ’96 and I was hooked instantly.
On the bands newest EP Sing In Japanese, the Gimmes decided to cover a new territory of music and once again add their own punk rock flair while doing so. Having covered many different genres of music in the past (including country, Broadway tunes and adult contemporary), it was no surprise the the boys in the Gimmes would eventually try something a tad more challenging. The result is a catchy culture crossing take on songs more likely sung along to in the bars of Japan.
“Hero” started off the EP with the Gimmes covering a Kai Band song. Lead vocalist Spike Slawson did not hesitate at all while singing this track in Japanese. While listening I read the band’s bio for this release and learned that Spike actually learned Japanese phonetically thanks to a friend of Fat Mike. I have to admit, I was impressed to learn that.
With a clever Social D “Story Of My Life” intro, the cover of the 70’s hit “Kekkon Shiyou Yo” (“Let’s Get Married”) by Takuro Yoshida was actually a lot of fun to listen to.
“C-C-C” mixed in Japanese and English lyrics into the song originally recorded by the early 70s Beatles-inspired band called The Tigers. The track, although I could only understand 50% of it, it was my favorite track on the EP.
“Linda Linda” ended the six song EP with a more ska-punk feel. With trumpets supplied by Brad Magers and Keith Douglas of Mariachi El Bronx, the song was indeed a genre bender of a track.
This is not the first time the Gimmies have played a songs in different language as previously heard in their only live album to date Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah. Ok, it was just “Hava Nagila”, and yes, they were at a Bar Mitzvah. Still, NOFX has covered the classic French tune “Champs Elysées” before, and they nailed it. The point I am trying to make is that the Gimmes are more talented than many may think.
So why did they do a Japanese EP full of songs you probably have never heard of in your life? Simple…because they can.
The band will be touring Japan shortly and I am sure that had something to do with which culture they decided to cover. Just like the band’s last EP Go Down Under (they toured Australia upon releasing the EP), the band threw together a bunch of songs together just in time to tour. I really would like to think that this was a little more involved than a couple of jam sessions as Spike really does a hell of a job singing the lyrics of each track in Japanese. Funny thing about this concept is that the band plans on releasing future EPs in Spanish, German, and even French. Is it wrong of me to be excited about this world tour of covering?
I can not say I knew any of these songs by heart nor have I the slightest clue what they were about, but I enjoyed what I heard. The Gimmies could play Jesus Christ Superstar in its entirety for all I care and I am sure I would say the same thing. I love these guys.