With the coincidental (and/or lunar) coincidence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, the holiday season has officially begun.
Of course, if you’ve been in a mall, watched TV, or listened to the radio at any point in the last few months, then you know the holidays really began quite some time ago. Hallmark stores release their annual Christmas ornaments in July (maybe it’s their way of honoring the release of the classic Miracle on 34th Street, which was advertised as “Christmas in July”). There’s talk of sales and recipes for some time before any holiday actually arrives on the calendar.
Being of the gentile persuasion, it’s really not my place to opine about a Jewish holiday. But it has always seemed like a warm affair. Maybe that’s just me conflating it with what the season represents for seculars and Christians. I know it’s not considered one of the holiest holidays; that’s reserved for the High Holy days, of course. I think, though, that may have something to do with more contemporary culture and the way Hanukkah and Christmas come so close on the calendar. It seems fun from the outside, what with the candle-lighting and gift-giving and games.
So I wish any Jewish folks who happen to read this a Happy Hanukkah. I will not conflate your holiday with Thanksgiving, which is the most secular of holidays. But I will risk offending someone by including a clip of Me First & the Gimme Gimmes ruining Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah (a totally separate and also religious celebration). “Hava Nagila” doesn’t show up until the end, though, so you’ll have to put up with some other nonsense first.
First off, these guys should get some kind of award for best band name. It’s just that awesome.
The friend who invited me out to see Steel Pulse a couple of weeks ago is the same one who introduced me to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (hereafter to be called MFATGG, because that’s just too many words to keep typing out). MFATGG is a cover band, but not your ordinary cover band. They play speeded up, fuzzed out punky versions of classic pop-rock tunes. They’re a cover band who decided to make every song they play their own, whether the song likes it or not.
One one level, you think the novelty would wear off after a while, and I don’t really think I could listen to them for hours on end. The songs don’t all sound exactly the same, but there is a definite formula. But these guys are clearly having the time of their lives (two of their albums are titled Have a Ball and Have Another Ball). It’s hard to get tired of that, or be annoyed by it. Because they could have easily been the most annoying group I ever heard. Their love of the music shows through, even as they metaphorically skewer everyone from The Beatles and Beach Boys to Dean Martin and Judy Garland. No one is safe from the MFATGG treatment. Why would you want to be, anyway?
One of the best ones I think they’ve done is Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” Barry Manilow is the closest thing I have to a guilty pleasure. He’s just so. . . corny. But MFATGG takes the corn and turns up the volume, and somehow makes it sound even more earnest. That’s no mean feat.
MFATGG’s collected works is available on itunes, and there are lots of their songs posted on YouTube. Their website plays music from their newest EP, Sing in Japanese. Feel free to indulge. I’ve found my limit is about four songs in a row.