Sound — 7
Usually when you hear the term "supergroup," you imagine a Justice League of successful musicians coming together to craft a composition for the ages. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes may consist of rock veterans - such as Fat Mike of NOFX, Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, Spike Slawson of Swingin' Utters, and Joey Cape and Dave Raun of Lagwagon - but their objective as a supergroup is more along the lines of cutting loose and being one of the highest-profile cover bands today. From oldies and showtunes to R&B and country hits, the Gimme Gimmes cover songs by outfitting the originals in a classic skate punk sound (while also outfitting themselves in attire appropriate to the theme of the cover album). Seeing as everyone in the group has bands of their own, it's been a while since the Gimme Gimmes have gotten together for a new concept, but now, six years since their last album, they're back with their seventh studio album, "Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!"
Though the album title is a tongue-in-cheek nod to Devo's album "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!," the concept for the album is a broad one: a collection of cover songs from divas. This spans through quite a few decades - from the '70s to the 2000s - and though the main focus covers iconic female pop singers (and certified divas) - such as Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer and Madonna - some other singers the Gimme Gimmes cover aren't traditionally considered "divas," such as Paula Abdul, Lady Gaga, and Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters. Regardless, the Gimme Gimmes have taken songs their punk audience would be caught dead listening to and adapted them into something a punk enthusiast could stomach.
For the most part, the covers are short and stark, equipped with up-tempo power chords and peppy drum-beats. At face value, these come off pretty elementary, and some of the covers, like "Beautiful," "Top of the World" and "Speechless" feel very vanilla. More of the covers would bear the same curse, but thankfully, Fat Mike's basslines in "Straight Up," "Karma Chameleon" and "On the Radio" and Shiflett's guitar-work in "Straight Up," "On the Radio" and "I Will Survive" help keep these covers more interesting than not - though "I Will Survive" is a song that really doesn't need to be covered ever again. Tangentially, the cover of the monumental Whitney Houston single "I Will Always Love You" seems to be fundamental for a concept of diva covers, but really, the song should just be retired; it doesn't need to be listened to in any other way.
The most interesting covers on the album, in fact, are the ones that shake up the typical skate punk sound of the Gimme Gimmes. "The Way We Were" switches between a slow-jam feel of Leslie-effected guitar and soft, reverbed vocals, and classic uptempo punk riffs; "Crazy For You" goes almost fully acoustic, letting Slawson show off his ukulele prowess as well as bringing in some saxophone flavor to the cover; and "My Heart Will Go On" dons a folk punk ensemble of acoustic guitar, accordion, upright bass and folky percussion, and ends up being a really ingenious take on the notoriously cheesy song.
Lyrics — 6
Seeing as this is a cover album, there's no difference in the lyrics between these songs and the originals. This could be seen as a missed opportunity for the band; it would have been fun to see Slawson throw in some goofy adlibs, and a dose of parody could have given another unique element to enjoy from the album. But going back to the initial idea that these covers are to make "Top 40" pop songs into denim-vested skate punk songs: there is a bit of intrinsic humor in the peculiarity of listening to Slawson sing the choruses of "Beautiful" and "Believe" over punchy power chords, and it does allow punksters to enjoy the infectiousness of some well-tailored top-lines without having to subject themselves to music that they'd deem unseemly, so perhaps the lyrics don't need to be toyed with in anyway.
Overall Impression — 7
For the most part, "Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!" isn't reinventing the wheel with these covers - it's only making them spin at a faster tempo. Cardinally, this album never *needed* to be created, but then again, you could say that for most of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes' albums; but just like all of the Gimme Gimmes' albums, they're created out of whimsy and fun. While it won't blow you away, this album does achieve its goal of bringing some novelty punk music to the table.