Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Go Down Under (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Go Down Under (2011)

Fat Wreck Chords

Although the second track of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes' Go Down Under EP opens with the thunderous riff of Black Flag's "Rise Above", instead of a raspy growl calling to arms against the iconic rumble, the band replies with the melancholy lyrics of Love Supply's "All Out of Love". In a way, this contrast is the perfect summation of the long-running punk cover band.

Even in their 16th year of chopping up pop classics, Me First still make it unclear just how far their tongues are in their collective cheek. Punk has a long tradition of performing mutilated covers, sometimes in tribute, such as the Clash's "Police & Thieves", and sometimes in vitriolic jest, as with the Circle Jerks' "Love Will Keep Us Together". But, as Me First reconstruct Top 40 classics from OZ, their punishing takes on the FM radio hits seem less like conflict than a reconsideration.

For instance, on their take of the Rick Springfield version of "I've Done Everything for You", lead singer Spike Slawson strips away the breathy reprise and replaces it with an (almost) Darby Crash-influenced snarl. Not only does the new inflection energize the formerly mechanical tune–it gives an entirely new interpretation to the song's meaning without changing a single word. Now the song's subject is less of a man on his knees and more of one brandishing a broken glass shard.

Although the band just grazes on Australia's legacy of great/terrible music, and a Men at Work cover would have been great (disclaimer: I genuinely think Men at Work are a great group), the group tackles the Easybeats*, who aren't as well-known as the other groups covered on the disc. With fewer preconceived notions riding on this cover, the group stretches out more than on almost any of their other songs and leave little remnants of the original, showing that without binds, the group might even be able to cut a pretty good original tune.

In fact, the group re-interprets the originals with such deftness on the disc that even a song like Olivia Newton-John's "Have You Never Been Mellow", when re-formatted, ceases to be '70s elevator music and is reborn into an early '90s Green Day B-side. While such reworking might seem like heresy to those on both side of the process, it seems that Me First might be saying that the gap between underground, abrasive, independent punk rock and bubblegum, highly-processed, major-label pop might not be nearly as wide as you think. Listen and prepare for internal conflict.

* - Fun fact: The Easybeats featured George Young, older brother of Angus Young, and Harry Vanda, both of whom would go to produce some of AC/DC's best albums, nearly a decade after their bubblegum-style pop dried up.