Who stole the soul? Who started churning out cookie-cutter records and making us hate the very music that bonds our society together? I donít have enough fingers to point at the accused, but I have found a solution to records that may only have one or two good tracks on them. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have offered up a new serving of scattered and covered on the Fat Wreck Chords release Take a Break. The latest release has thirteen, count them, thirteen!, tasty, raucous, spectacular punk twists on R & B favorites. These guys have no boundaries, or table manners, and it shows in every wonderful track on their new record.
The Gimmes have forged a career out of riding the proverbial sellout fence by being in popular punk bands as their day jobs, and covering pop tunes by night. The San Francisco-based supergroup is made up of members of NOFX, Swinginí Utters, Foo Fighters, and Lagwagon. The Gimmes have been together since 1995, cutting 7" singles since 1997, and breaking the rules since the five of them met. The band has put out records covering show tunes, 60's hits, and now they cross yet another line in the sand with Take a Break. They are legends in their own homes, but spreading to the Ďburbs with a quickness.
Upon my first unbiased, even-keeled listen, and not knowing the first thing about the Gimmes, I was, quite frankly asking myself, "What is this crap?". After a second listen, I realized how wonderful this record really is. The bandís tongue-in-cheek attitude makes one realize the beauty of a well-written song, and the genius of reworking a song, not just playing it faster. This record opens with the band cranking out the poppy "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?", and the record only gets crazier from there. Take a Break runs the gamut of covering popular songs, from The Jackson Fiveís "Iíll Be There," to Boyz II Menís "End of the Road." There are brilliant intros to such classics as "Mona Lisa," and the R. (I didnít do it) Kelly hit "I Believe I Can Fly." The Three Stooges would be proud to hear the remake of Lionel Ritchieís "Hello."
The bandís chemistry is perfect, from Jake Jacksonís slick guitar to Fat Mikeís great bass lines, especially on the Prince/Sinead OíConnor hit "Nothing Compares 2 U" to Daveís solid drumming approach. Spikeís lead vocals are as heartfelt as if he wrote these songs himself, and Joey can rock as hard as any of them. I must also mention how refreshing it is to hear a ukulele on a punk record. Mahalo, my friends.
One of the things that makes this record so beautiful is that this should be a template for cover bands the world over. Why regurgitate a pop song when you can twist it within an inch of its life? This band realizes that over and over, and drives that point home with passion and force at the same time.
My only complaint about Take a Break is that it only has 13 songs. They have left me wanting moreÖ much more, and thatís what a great record should do. I would think they are going to conquer a new genre on the next record, but I could stand a follow-up to this one. With so many great songs out there to reinvent, The Gimmes will be hitting home runs for a long time to come.
Steven Cook is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.