Reviews The Ergs! Jersey's Best Prancers

The Ergs!

Jersey's Best Prancers

Anyone who's been paying attention can see the writing on the wall: like Cock Sparrer in 1982, pop punk's coming back. Of course, it never really left; it's just seen a variety of mutations since the halcyon days of "Locket Love": The Descendents' heartsick catharsis, The Lillingtons' television city dreaming, and the thrift store angst of Saves the Day are only a few examples. But a look around the punk landscape at bands like Set Your Goals and Death is Not Glamorous offers ample proof that we're living in a post-Lifetime era featuring, ironically enough, a reunited Lifetime.

And that's what makes the cover art and title of The Ergs' new EP so perplexing. Jersey's Best Prancers is packaged as an overt and affectionate homage to Lifetime, much as Hello Bastards paid tribute to The Housemartins. But here's the crazy part: The Ergs don't sound much like Lifetime at all, especially compared to some of their brethren. They're more Paul Westerberg than Dan Yemin, more "Alex Chilton" than "Francie Nolan." All they seem to share with Lifetime is a base of operations, and the EP lovingly provides an "Ergs Guide to New Jersey". It's interesting, because methinks our taste for pastiche might be tested if a true sound-alike were to use this kind of aesthetic. I mean I love Shook Ones as much as anyone, but how much of someone else's art can you take?

There are plenty of bands one could compare The Ergs to, but one I keep coming back to is J Church. Like The Mission District's native sons, The Ergs write short, insanely catchy ditties that are smart without being smug and poignant without being drippy (although The Ergs forgo Lance Hahn's occasional situationist polemics). That said, The Ergs have a very distinct identity and don't really sound like anybody else, a fact that immediately sets them apart from many of today's pop-punk faithful. The best song by far is "Man of Infirmity", which illustrates the band's tastefully applied alt-country influence - think No Depression-era Uncle Tupelo - and features some wickedly memorable bass playing. "Bridge" is arguably the best song about a bridge since "The Bridge" by Samiam, which it's actually just a little reminiscent of.

As a follow-up to the underrated 2004 full-length Dorkrockcorkrod, Jersey's Best Prancers is just right: it ups the ante but leaves you wanting more. It's one of the first records in a while - okay, since the Hidden World Mp3's leaked - that I find myself listening to over and over without its charms diminishing in the least. Besides, it's hugely refreshing in this age of sick mosh and… well, fill in the blank with whatever else irks you about punk today. If you're at all receptive to pop-punk transmissions, you really owe it to yourself to tune in to The Ergs.

9.0 / 10Jon
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9.0 / 10

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