Best known as a member of The Ergs!, Worriers and sometime collaborator with For Science and House Boat, the ever-busy Mikey Erg embarked on a solo career in 2011. His second full-length album, 2019’s ‘Waxbuilt Castles’, found Erg moving away from his typical pop-punk and taking more of a singer-songwriter stance. Often veering into (pre-country music) Ben Kweller territory, it sort of suited him, but came as a surprise for some fans.
For those who disliked Mikey’s more reflective side on that album, some consolation comes with 2020’s ‘Bon Voyage’ EP’ moving back to punk. The EP was specially commissioned by Stardumb Records and Mikey immediately thought about the punk EP’s of his youth, of how they were often a gateway to a new band, often featured exclusive tracks and often featured a cover tune along the way. ‘Bon Voyage’ ticks all of those boxes.
The cover tune isn’t anything from the world of punk or pop-punk, but a lesser known track by The Beatles. Erg takes ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ – a folky McCartney-led ditty from “The White Album” – and twists it into a pop-punk banger, complete with a lead guitar intro that sounds like something Jughead would have added to a dozen Screeching Weasel songs. It surprising how well the track translates into a full pelt punker, especially once Erg starts to deliver McCartney’s wistful melody at full volume. It even lends itself to a sharp lead guitar break along the way, but attempting to include Paul’s thoughtful humming coda is, perhaps, a step too far. Whatever, it’s an interesting addition to the million and one Beatles covers out there, and especially left-field when you consider that something a little rockier (like ‘Revolution’ or ‘Back In The USSR’) would’ve been a much safer choice…
With regards to Erg’s trio of self-penned tracks, the title track is the most vital addition to his extensive catalogue. Being a full speed punker with a fantastic Swingin’ Utters-esque riff thrown between the verses to add a necessary depth, it’s the kind of recording that’ll have instant appeal for Ergs! fans of old. In and out in under two minutes, it’s a genuine cobweb blower that’s reminiscent of a half-dozen classic Lookout! bands, while ‘Colleen’ fares almost as well by not hiding a genuine love of Screeching Weasel, as well as not trying to be too clever. Although it doesn’t come with a chorus as such, that all important earworm comes from a repeated hook of “Colleen…Colleen…Colleen” tempered by an unfussy backing vocal. If you’re more than familiar with Mikey’s formative years, you’ll certainly like it. Slowing down a little, ‘The New Departure Blues’ offers a much chunkier riff, falling somewhere between Riverdales and Weezer, showcasing a rather muscular arrangement. Unfortunately, in slowing down, it exposes Mikey’s lack of vocal finesse. His performance on this number is a bit nasal and flat, but still manages to be preferable to the whinier moments of ‘Waxbuilt Castles’. This will never be a cast-iron favourite, but since the other tracks are so good, it sits well enough in the context of the EP as a whole.
If you came to this EP hoping for old-school pop punk with a capital P, you’ve got it. Erg never makes any attempt of putting his own stamp on the genre – after decades in the business, he doesn’t really need to – but in playing things straight, he delivers a short work that’s almost guaranteed to please fans of Screeching Weasel, The Leftovers, The Manges and their ilk. With a couple of genuine belters and an inspired cover tune, ‘Bon Voyage’ does everything necessary to deliver a quick thrill.