REVIEW: Extreme – Running Gag (Japanese EP)

scan_20170112EXTREME – Running Gag (1995 A&M Japan)

You’ve read it here before, and we’ll repeat it again:  Japan gets the best stuff!

While the UK got the regular CD single for the song “Unconditionally” (four tracks), Japan called it the Running Gag EP and added a fifth track.  Due to various chart regulations in the UK, singles had to have four or less tracks to qualify.  Meanwhile, Japan seems to love releasing exclusive EPs and Running Gag is one such exclusive that Extreme fans will want to hunt down.

Extreme’s fourth album, 1995’s Waiting for the Punchline, was as much a treat as the prior albums.  It was as different from them as they are from each other.  This time, they went raw and stripped down.  You can usually hear only one guitar track at a time.  “Unconditionally” was the closing ballad, a fantastic song presented here as an edited remix.  Mike Mangini was added on drums, and you can hear slight differences from the album track.  Had the year been 1991, they would have had another hit on their hands.  Fans who know the song will recognize it for its heart and charm.

Three live songs with Mike Mangini on drums are the real treat of the set.  (He gets a chance or two to really smoke.)  “Am I Ever Gonna Change” from Extreme III is the middle part of their side-long epic “Everything Under the Sun”.  It worked well enough as a standalone song to be released as a promo single, and to be played live.  For the live situation, Nuno souped up his guitar solo.  Without the backing orchestra the album version has, it’s a very different sound.  Such is the danger of recording an album that is difficult to reproduce live.

The two tracks from Waiting for the Punchline sound more at home on stage.  “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” (the Japanese exclusive) and “Naked” have a mean, catchy vibe.  Extreme were one of very few hard rock bands that adapted their sound well to the grunge onslaught.  These songs are not “grunge”, but they represent a step in that direction.  The songs have more bite, more bass, more groove.  The solos are sparse, though Nuno puts his foot to the gas pedal when required.  Without sounding dated Extreme simply pivoted just so into the 90s, but it sadly didn’t equal sales.

The final song is a studio ballad, “When Will it Rain” which has a vague Wings sound crossed with smooth Extreme balladeering.  It’s actually quite a great little bonus track.  Its quaint 70s qualities might not have fit in well on the original album, but hopefully you will have a chance to hear it in your travels.

Good little EP, just shy of great.

3.5/5 stars

 

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19 comments

  1. Had I somehow bought this back in the day it would’ve been for the bonus studio material When Will It Rain. While not an improvement on the Jackyl song of same name it is indeed a fine tune would been chomping to get the EP just to hear this thank God for good old YouTube and the net. Would make for cool addition still will keep an eye out for it thanks Mike. These days listen to WFTP more their others :)

    Must have about 50 of these CD singles tucked away too, must browse them at some point

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    1. Well Wardy if you ever dig up your CD singles and have some for sale…let me know!

      Look for a review of WFTP tomorrow! I have one more Extreme single from this period but it’s in a pile.

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  2. Never heard of this …no surprise as I don’t sniff out this stuff….looks cool though and as always a great read Mikey…
    Too bad Cynical Fuck wasn’t on here as a live version….what a great track!

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    1. No obi on mine, but I think I paid something similar. When I first started using Discogs I began searching for all these long lost singles and EPs and this was one obtained from the Discogs!

      I must say that Discogs really supplied LOTS of singles I’d been hunting for or didn’t even know about.

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