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Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Sing in Japanese (Cover Artwork)

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes: Sing in JapaneseSing in Japanese (2011)
Fat Wreck Chords

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: JephsoJephso
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Having studied Japanese for four years, lived in Japan for two and been a fan of punk rock for much longer, I was interested to see how Me First and the Gimmes Gimmes' new Japanese pop music-themed EP turned out. Sing in Japanese has been released just before the Gimme Gimmes' mini-tour of the Land .
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Having studied Japanese for four years, lived in Japan for two and been a fan of punk rock for much longer, I was interested to see how Me First and the Gimmes Gimmes' new Japanese pop music-themed EP turned out. Sing in Japanese has been released just before the Gimme Gimmes' mini-tour of the Land of the Rising Sun, and it follows on from Go Down Under and the subsequent Australian tour earlier this year.

On the whole I'm not a fan of Japanese music, but every now and then you'll get a quirky, catchy pop song that bucks the trend, especially if you go back a few decades. Luckily, the six tracks that make up Sing in Japanese are all catchy and are performed in trademark Gimme Gimme style.

Some Western fans have already complained that they won't be familiar with the songs the band have chosen here, let alone understand the lyrics, but you don't need to necessarily understand what's being said to enjoy this EP. If you flip it around, the vast majority of Japanese people who listen to music sung in English will have little idea of what's being said, yet Western music is extremely popular in Japan. Even more popular are Western bands that record songs in Japanese, and let's be honest, this EP was made primarily for the band's Japanese fans.

Other American bands off the top of my head who have recorded songs in Japanese include MxPx, Ozma and Allister, but I think the Gimmes Gimmes' effort is the most impressive, as Spike's Japanese pronunciation is actually pretty decent. Especially when you consider some of these songs have been sped up from the original, making pronunciation tricky in parts.

The EP kicks off with a cover of "Hero" from 1978, originally by a group called Kai Band. This song is incredibly catchy and Spike's energetic delivery makes it seem as if he believes every word he's singing. The Gimme Gimmes always walk a fine line between poking fun at the original and playing it with 100% passion and belief in the sentiment. Even with these Japanese songs it's the same.

Next up is "Kokoro No Tabi" (translated as "trip of the heart"), performed by Tulip in 1973. The original song is fairly tame, but the Gimme Gimmes' version is raucous with rowdy gang vocals in the chorus, making it sound like a drinking song. I imagine salarymen sitting around an izakaya, waving their beer glasses in the air and singing in unison.

"Kekkon Shiyoyo" ("let's get married"), originally recorded by Yoshida Takuro in 1972, is a fairly simple tune, but the Gimme Gimmes have created a fairly diverse, interesting arrangement here.

"C-C-C" was released by the Tigers in 1968 and was a classic example of the genre known as Group Sounds–basically Beatles imitation music. Rather than the twee campiness of the original, the Gimme Gimmes' version opens up with a heavy, chugging riff, but soon morphs into a more happy sounding thing, complete with tambourine.

Released by Kaze in 1975, "22 Sai No Wakare" ("break-up at 22") is quite a sad, melancholic track. The Gimme Gimmes' version is sped up and makes for a dark, brooding punk rock song.

Ending the EP is "Linda Linda", one of the most popular Japanese songs of all time. Originally released in 1987 by punk band the Blue Hearts, it has been covered by MxPx and Andrew W.K. and was the inspiration for a whole movie in 2005. The chorus is also pretty easy to sing along to, even for those who don't understand Japanese. Rather than do a straight-up punk version of this already punk song, though, the Gimme Gimmes take a clever route and turn the majority of it into a laid-back reggae track, but the song ramps up as it reaches its conclusion and ends the EP on a high. You even get Fat Mike imitating bad Japanese pronunciation.

A six-track covers EP is never going to deserve a perfect score, but I will say that the Gimme Gimmes have by now perfected the art of the punk rock cover, even in another language. Musically, most of these songs do have something slightly different and Japanese about them, and they're all great, so even if you don't understand all the lyrics, Sing in Japanese is worth checking out.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
wkrick (May 30, 2012)

I can't believe they didn't cover something from Shonen Knife. I was also hoping for something from Loudness, but I suppose they were shooting for more traditional Japanese pop songs.

jephso (May 7, 2012)

Just realised the opening to "C-C-C" is Bloodstains by Agent Orange.

KF84 (September 21, 2011)

I wonder what Japanese listeners think of the pronunciation. I think it is difficult for anyone who doesn't naturally speak a language to judge another persons pronunciation, even if you have studied that language. You never get rid of some sort of a discordance in sound. For instance, people who try to speak Dutch, still sounds like f-ing retards after multiple years..

jacknife737 (September 20, 2011)

This ep is so much fun: one of their strongest releases.

MuhammadMormon (September 20, 2011)

Definitely better than the last EP.

BarleyPat (September 20, 2011)

I think the Gimmes are fun and like most of their output, but I'm going to wait until the whole "music from different countries" thing runs it's course and buy the compilation release that we all know will follow. I'm tired of buying every rinkydink release by bands that pull it all together and put 2 unreleased songs on the comp to make you bitter.

titoux (September 20, 2011)

I'm french, i don't understand one single word on this EP, but it's so catchy that it's already one of my favorites !!
Go gimmes !!
I can only pray for the french one...

likeaparasite (September 20, 2011)

Thank you for your review. I'm glad this was reviewed by someone taking it seriously. I know there's a tendency to not take Me First and The Gimme Gimmes albums seriously (as evidenced by some of the other reviews). That's understandable given how silly so much of their music is, but this album really deserves some serious love and appreciation.

I've been listening to it constantly all week and I just adore it. I know I'm partially biased because I'm also someone who has lived in Japan, learned some Japanese, and loved the culture. I think I'd love it even if I hadn't, though. I've enjoyed all Me First and the Gimme Gimmes releases to some degree, but the quality has varied, and I think this is truly some of their best work. They haven't done anything this consistently good since "Blow in the Wind".

Spike's pronunciation really is impressive both when he's singing and yelling, but on top of that, there's a variety to the music that's been absent from their last few releases, which were more straightforward punk rock. Here they play with the pace more, as in the start-and-stop "C-C-C", and throw in whimsical touches like the reggae vibe in "Linda Linda".

I love the Social Distortion reference in "Kekkon Shiyoyo" too. I've missed the obvious back-up vocals from Joey Cape and Fat Mike and was happy to hear them back (with a vengeance) in "C-C-C" and "Linda Linda". This is the first Me First and the Gimme Gimmes album on which I'd never heard any of the originals, so I'm really surprised that it has ended up being one of my favourite things they've ever done as well.

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