Cover songs have extraordinary power. They can give any band, at any show, the ability to win over an audience, immediately. If you see an obscure (or just horrible) band play a descent cover, you might find yourself saying something to the tune of: "Yeah, they weren't too bad. That Cure cover was awesome!" We'll call this situation "temporary insanity due to cover-shock."
In laymen's terms, the victim believes the band actually has a breadth of talent based on their mimicking of a good and usually popular song put out by--surprise, surprise--a talented artist! This is why they hire cover bands to play weddings, because people just want to hear the hits! If you're at some crappy, boring hardcore show (this shouldn't be a rare occasion, with the insane amount of mediocre hardcore bands chugging around these days) and all you hear is a 30 songs of the same 4 chords in 4/4 timing, you'll walk away happy. Happy that you can finally get the fuck out of there.
But suppose one of those happy-to-be-crappy hardcore bands throws in say, a Ramones cover. "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" is hammered out chord for chord. "Hey, right on! I love this song!" All of a sudden you're bopping your head, tapping your foot, maybe throwing up the metal horns if that's your thing. Now they (the band) have got your attention, and might be able to cram a couple of their crap songs down your throat before you realize that it isn't really mom's 'meat'-loaf. You're left with a somewhat positive opinion of the band. You are sick, get to a hospital.
Me First and the Gimme Gimme's (that's the first and last time I'm going to spell that out) have made a career out of it. Well, yeah, they're a band of punk all-stars who have their own successful bands, you just might have heard of them: Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, NOFX. So why the hell are they doing this, anyway? Well, maybe they're just trying to find another way to produce an album ignorant punk kids will just gobble up. Maybe they're just trying to...
Take a Break is their fourth full-length release. This one is supposed to be a tribute to their black music heroes, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Prince, to name just a few. All great songs, no doubt about it. Take a look at the track list, you will most likely recognize all of them. A great collection.
And this one isn't bad. It's not great either. MF&TGG have the punk cover market pinned down, although bands like New Found Glory have made their own entries. The problem with this release, and even with the band altogether, is they don't do enough to make the cover their own song, so to speak. Sure, they've got distorted guitars, punk tempos and what not, but all of these songs sound monotonous! Spike Slawson (vocals) doesn't seem very enthused when he sings these melodies. If you're going to cover a bunch of songs by black artists, the one thing you absolutely need is SOUL. Spike, my friend, you need a soul injection in (but not up) your ass.
Granted, you might hear a couple interludes that are original, including the monologue during "End of the Road" which talks about getting wasted with a girl. Coming from such regularly hilarious guys, this attempt at humor was rather weak.
The album has a lot of energy, thanks mostly to drummer Dave Raun (Lagwagon) and a couple of random shouts throughout the songs from the band. They play the songs well, but what I'm still digging to hear is something up to the quality level of the bands from which the members of this band came from. Any punk band could cover these songs just as well, and I know this isn't true! But this recording says otherwise. It's uninspiring, dull and downright uncreative. Yes, I believe you can be creative with cover songs. Heck, I used to be in a cover band in high school (not one of my proudest achievements but it qualifies me none the less) and we could have put more flair into these songs than MF&TGG have.
This record isn't trash, it's a good party record and fun to rock out to when you need something simple to sing along to. That's about as far as this release will go for most. Had MF&TGG taken more time to hash out these songs, as it honestly sounds rushed and thrown together, they might have produced something worth more. They do mess with you a bit, giving you a taste of the intro to The Cars' "Just What I Needed" before they ram into "I'll Be There." A suggestion for the fellows in MF&TGG: either stop taking so many drugs, or start taking more.
Stephen Bozzone is the Director of Rockzone.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.