Music News

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

As anyone whose assorted crosses to bear include working with a slew of self-absorbed, green-haired brats and listening to their incessant prattling of the "awesome" nature of this or that fourth-generation punk band will recognize, the line between irony and stupidity basically doesn't exist anymore. Don't blame Spinal Tap; it's all stupid. And while punk supergroup Me First and the Gimme Gimmes coyly plays around with dismissive smirks -- the press kit includes quotes from members that read, "Full on cool; empty on talent" and "We got nothin' to prove, nothin' to lose and absolutely nothin' to say" -- proof that the combo has something to sell just as surely as the latest manufactured boy band is shilling for the industry arrives by way of its label's proud touting of sales figures. Reportedly, both 1997's Have a Ball, comprising '70s have-a-nice-day crapola, and 1999's Are a Drag, annoying versions of Grease, Annie and Evita tunes, sold in excess of 200,000 copies apiece. Put into perspective, that's enough merch-induced cash flow to give every high school teen in Phoenix a dye job (green or otherwise) and still have enough left over for bribing members of the senior class to buy 'em packs of smokes.

So, what's the latest marketing gambit for these yahoos, currently slumming from their day jobs with NOFX, Foo Fighters, Lagwagon and Swingin' Utters? Why, deconstruct classic rock, folk and pop from the '60s via a slam-bang 13-song romp through Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Cat Stevens, Dusty Springfield, Del Shannon, Goffin/King . . . and up the kitsch ante by offering a suitably "punk" twist here or there that goes beyond the standard-issue "speed it up to hard-core level" ploy that's been done over and over again. Yes, MFATGG isn't exactly pushing the envelope, since punk bands have been doing gnarly covers of '60s tunes ever since the Sex Pistols torched "Steppin' Stone" and the Dickies served notice that the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" was fair territory for putting on display some postmodern cool and thumbing one's nose at Mom 'n' Pop's classic rock tastes. No better proof of this exists than the cover here of Scott Mackenzie's "San Francisco." What's more un-punk, and therefore reversely hip, than to blare the ultimate hippie/flower-power anthem! Poor Papa John Phillips, the tune's writer, is no doubt turning in his freshly dug grave. Like, RIP dude, whatever, nevermind.

Blow in the Wind kicks off, appropriately enough, with the singer stuttering on the word "how" prior to the band slamming into a Green Day-o-fied "Blowin' in the Wind." Har, har, har. What's next, beginning a José Feliciano tribute album with the sound of someone walking into a wall? Next up is "Sloop John B" -- to the beat and riff of the Ramones' "Lobotomy" (chant it: "Sloop John B . . . Sloop John B . . ."). Moderately clever, we'll give 'em that much. A similar approach is taken with the Turtles' "Elenor" via the Clash's "London Calling" thump and crunch. Yet neither tune maintains the pose, in each instance reverting to the aforementioned speed-it-up stock in trade, suggesting that fleetingly interesting ideas are, as the saying goes, like assholes. You know the rest.

To wit: Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" was already done long ago, and still well within the age of irony's timeframe, by Lemmy and Wendy O. Williams. Maybe MFATGG forgot this, or maybe they are being ironic by injecting some previously unanticipated homoerotic content. And by serving up a version of the song Mike Nesmith wrote for Linda Ronstadt, "Different Drum," and plowing the lyric line so earnestly straight (so to speak) that it becomes a punk co-optation manifesto, MFATGG suggests, unintentionally, that we're once again at the cusp of a "wave my freak flag high/meet the new boss, same as the old boss" era. Time to put all the contemporary punk bands out to pasture, methinks. Don't trust anyone under 30.

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Fred Mills