The break-up of The Ergs! has left me feeling sourer than the break-up of any other band of recent times. Bands like Gorilla Biscuits or Operation Ivy or The Misfits (you know, the good version of The Misfits) broke up before I could talk, so they’ve always seemed sort of mythic and unreachable, and not at all the bands of my own generation. The very idea of seeing them play a live show feels like the idea of sitting up on Mount Olympus, chugging nectar with Zeus himself.
Then again, if the music is truly timeless then it doesn’t matter too much that the band broke up. It doesn’t feel like anything’s been lost, there’s none of that sting that if you weren’t there, you’ll only ever know a part of what that music was, because it was so much more than just music. Operation Ivy are a great example of this, because their popularity exploded so astronomically after their break up. They recently vetoed the idea of a reunion just because they only played tiny little clubs when they were around, and couldn’t figure out how Op Ivy would work in the massive venues that they’d have to play if they came back.
Basically, where I’m going with this article – although I’ll forgive you for missing this point since I’ve gone about it in such a messy, round-about sort of way – is that the music of The Ergs! is such perfection that I think it will apotheosise the band’s memory, (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll drop the mythology imagery now) and outlast them, and snowball and become as much a staple of the average punk-music-diet as Energy did.
Firstly, let’s be honest with ourselves, The Ergs! do sound an awful lot like most other pop-punk bands. Their most obstinate fans would have to concede to this – including myself, the writer of this article in support of them – because it is the truth. However, I doubt many pop-punk fans are really that bothered by ‘that nagging feeling’ that one song sounds suspiciously like another. Pop-punk is not a genre that takes itself nearly seriously enough for such accusations to stick. It is youthful and snotty and playful, it cares about dancing and crushes and fun and not at all what you might think of it. The best pop-punk bands are not renowned for their technical merit or sparkling innovation, they are beloved for their jaunty, catchy melodies and simplicity of expression – why would this singer use a four syllable word to describe his feelings for a girl he likes when his feelings are not that complicated to begin with?
There is, of course, a balance that has to be reached here. What makes pop-punk music interesting and lively and fun, or just plain boring and unoriginal is difficult to define because it doesn’t really come from anything we can measure critically. The Ergs! are unstoppably fun and lively, and even if a lot of what they’re doing is, musically, built upon hand-me-downs from The Ramones and Screeching Weasel and so on, who cares? Because they way they play it, it certainly sounds new and fresh. This is why I think their music deserves to – is going to – last forever. There’s a charm to The Ergs that’s going to keep appealing to people so long as The Kids are still Alright and listening to music.
In particular, the song Pray For Rain (off the album Dork Rock Cork Rod) is perhaps one of the most perfect pop-punk songs ever. The lyrics are at turns sweet and sour in sentiment, and just when you think they’re coasting on the most obvious rhymes, something clever comes along and knocks you out with a wit that you weren’t expecting. More than anything, these are purposefully rhythmical lyrics, designed to keep the song bouncing along, perky as ever. The subject matter (the lead singer can’t write a song about how infatuated he is by his love interest because “it seems like broken-hearted love songs are what I’m all about” and suggests, tongue in cheek, that they will have to break up so that he can write a song about “how everything went wrong. And you can sing along”) is a brilliant distillation of the entire basis of a genre, a clever but unpretentious little comment on the whole idea of love songs and the importance of angst and misery in love songs. The guitars are loud and clangy, as if they’re trying their hardest not to sound cute and melodic, but aren’t succeeding in the slightest, because that’s exactly how they sound.
Most importantly, this is a song that you will not get out of your head for months. When you finally do get it out of your head, it will likely be replaced with another Ergs! song because their musical canon is pretty much geared towards catchiness with all the intensity of a Britney Spears hit. Music can do a lot of things – it is a mysterious source with many mystical powers. The music of The Ergs! is designed to be ‘The Best Pop-Punk We Can Build’ and it does its job beautifully. If you want the distilled essence of why pop-punk is a genre that will never die, listen to The Ergs! and it will make a pop-punk fan out of you.