LabelFat Wreck Chords
Tracklist01. Hero - Originally by Kai Band (1978)
02. Kokoro No Tabi - Originally by Tulip (1973)
03. Kekkon Shiyoyo - Originally by Yoshida Takuro (1972)
04. C-C-C - Originally by The Tigers (1968)
05. 22 Sai No Wakare - Originally by Kaze (1975)
06. Linda Linda - Originally by the Blue Hearts (1987)
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For the uninitiated, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a punk rock super-group of sorts who for the past decade and a half have only played punk-infected covers. Can you guess the shtick of their new EP Sing in Japanese? For the record, no, I’m not proud of you for guessing that they’re doing covers of classic Japanese bands. This isn’t Blue’s Clues.
To cut to the chase, for the Gimme Gimmes fan, this is a day one purchase. It’s just under 16 minutes of the same unadulterated fun you've come to expect. But maybe you’re like me, a casual listener, maybe you recognize the iconic name but have never listened. You’re wondering, does Sing in Japanese have legs beyond the gimmick? Is it worth the eight dollar price tag ($10 at Amazon) for six tracks? My answer: no, not really. It’s suitable for a listen or two on a lark, or to show off to your friends, but only a small fraction of the tracks really retain any sort of replay value.
To chase away any xenophobes now, yes, Spike is singing almost entirely in Japanese, save for a few token English phrases extant in the original songs. If you are the kind of person who needs lyrics to attach to, break out your Japanese-English dictionaries now. But honestly, if you've made a habit of listening to Envy, Daitro, or heck, Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” the Japanese is a welcome change of pace rather than a distraction.
Musically, Sing in Japanese is virtually indistinguishable from all of punk’s various American flavors. “Kekkon Shiyoyo” even features some riffage that distinctly drips with Americana. In some respects, the Gimme Gimmes’ ability to synthesize classic Japanese tracks into punk that is easily consumable by American audiences is to be applauded, but a part of me wishes there was a more distinctly Eastern “flavor” to the six tracks. And in the case of closer “Linda Linda,” the Gimme Gimmes neuter the original by injecting the track with a slowed-down, ska sort of swagger.
If you’re in need of a quick litmus test, give “Kokoro no Tabi” and “Hero” a listen. They are probably the two best tracks off this short EP. If you dig them, you might have the chops to enjoy the remainder of Sing in Japanese. If you don’t, pat yourself on the back for being multicultural today and move along. At this point, the Gimme Gimmes know who their core audience is. Bottom line, Sing in Japanese is a gimmick release from a niche band. I can’t recommend it unless you've got the money to blow or a Japanese girl named Linda to impress.