Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Love Their Country
llow me to explain how Love Their Country, an album of CMA-approved standards slapped about a bit by this bratpunk supergroup works, in the ways that Betcha Bottom Dollar, a series of songs seemingly picked at random by a drunk cripple falling onto a jukebox covered by a bunch of sourpuss ex-strippers, doesn't.
Cover albums are basically novelty music. Novelty music is basically comedy music without the laugh track. So if it's comedy, there's gotta be a joke in there somewhere. And if there's a joke in there, it's gotta have two things: a set-up and a punchline. Me First and the Gimmes Gimmes have the set-up down pat because they understand the genre they're working in. Sure, unless you're a 15 year-old boarding school kid from Malvern serving detention for trying to dye your hair punk, Lagwagon and NOFX are unlikely to make your Year End list. But at least they understand the snot-nosed. They're worked in the snot-nosed for years and, at the end of the day, they are snot-nosed. Three chords and a t-shirt over a longsleeve. Simple. The Puppini Sisters, on the other hand, appeared to have learned about 1940s close harmony music from a vandalized Wikipedia entry (“Close harmony is an arrangement of the notes of chords lol snakes on a plane lol, typically one octave JIMMY IS A GAYBO”).
The punchline is the songs themselves. Industry Rule #4081: bad novelty cover bands will always do either “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Wuthering Heights.” From that jackass with the accordion who pops up on TV every now and then through to Hayley Westerna, this is an indisputable fact. Me First and the etc. aren't gonna cheat their fans, though. They theme their albums, there's some actual “thought” put into all this. It's not just: “Wouldn't it be funny if we shouted the lyrics to “Jolene”?” It's: “Wouldn't it be funny if we shouted the lyrics to a whole bunch of country songs, including “Jolene,” and showed that we at least had a passing familiarity with what we're ribbing on?” (“Jolene” wasn't funny when Jack White sang it anyway.)
Explaining what this album sounds like is like explaining a joke, demeaning to both the writer and the performer. But... “Goodbye Earl” switches from '99 country to '99 teen-punk, complete with “All the Small Things” “na-na-na-na” harmonies. Kenny Rogers' “She Believes in Me” (the obvious joke would have been a bad cover of “The Gambler”) gets some flailing-arm drumming and “This is the serious song on the album” vocals. “East Bound and Down” even includes a riff purloined from some song by The Damned that your grandparents may be aware of. This album is really, really good. It’s the kind of fun you stopped having since you realized you couldn't take both anti-depressants and drink at the same time. I mean, it's not that hard, right? Good set-up, good punch line, three chords, change the world, listen to oldies radio... it'd take a Puppini Sister to mess that up.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2006-10-20