Though it doesn't sound like a particularly good idea, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, an all-star punk-rock cover band, transforms frothy pop songs by the likes of James Taylor and Lionel Richie, which should make any self-respecting punk sick to his stomach, into raging karaoke numbers, which often blow away the original tunes. Some stronger alcohol might have produced a more intriguing idea, perhaps a Duran Duran cover band dressed as assassins called Sirhan Sirhan, or a Hassidic Jewish black metal act. (Please feel free to use these ideas.)
But Me First, which includes Fat Mike from NOFX, a couple of guys from Lagwagon, and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett, somehow pulls off atrocities like Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by piling on fancy drum fills, snippets of vintage punk tunes and barbershop-quartet-like harmonies to back up their golden-throated crooner Spike Slawson. Claiming homage rather than satire, they've nailed Neil Diamond and Kenny Loggins on Have a Ball (1997), re-created show tunes from Evita to The Sound of Music on Are a Drag (1999), grinded their way through the hits of the '60s on Blow in the Wind (2001), and pummeled out '80s R&B jams on their latest album, Take a Break (2003).
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While the connection between Barry Manilow and punk rock might seem elusive, Me First successfully bridges the gap between smelly punks and the antiquated record collections of their baby-boomer parents.