Hindsight Is 20/20 My Friends
I feel as if what I’m about to say is going to make me wildly unpopular. That I will lose friends and give my enemies yet another reason to dislike me. I’m also concerned that thepunksite.com readers will become so enraged that they’ll pull a Frankenstein on me and physically hunt me down with a bunch of torches and pitchforks until I’m cornered in some decrepit castle while they gather outside the walls until I’m really hungry and have to surrender, at which time they’ll, I don’t know, skewer my head on a super-big stick or something. But here goes:
When it comes to The Ergs!, I honestly don’t see what the big deal is.
There, I said it.
Granted, I’m basing most of my opinion of Hindsight… Yes, I’ve seen em live, I’ve peripherally enjoyed Upstairs/Downstairs and Dorkrockcorkrod, and while those albums seem (obviously, as they’re not singles collections) much more linear and rocking, I still don’t understand the foaming-at-the-mouth fervor surrounding this band. They’re catchy, self-effacing pop-punk with witty my-heart-is-totally-smashed lyrics, but I’ve never understood their fans’ die-hard absolutism about em.
Admittedly, they’re insanely talented musicians. They unquestionably know their way around a song – regardless of what genre they’re fucking with – and could most likely play this stuff in their sleep. They make it sound easy and, yes, are undoubtedly a fun band. But there’s just something about the stuff on Hindsight…, even the few straight-forward pop punk songs where they’re not messing around with country music or hardcore or reggae, that fails to sink it’s teeth in. It could be that nearly all of the songs revolve around broken hearts – I mean, shit, even Screeching Weasel strayed off the beaten path now and again – or the fact that Hindsight… is structured in a way that there’s a lot of that genre-hopping (a pop punk song followed by a few country jams followed by another pop punk song followed by a fifteen-second hardcore blast). But mostly, it’s just that there’s this sense of too much that’s pervasive throughout the whole thing. It’s like, the dudes are such good musicians that they almost can’t help but insert little jazzy chord progressions into a song or spoof small sections of doo-wop vocal arrangements in the choruses. And as for me and my Neandrathalic palette, it detracts from the music rather than adding anything – I want this band to just go full-tilt sometimes, and at least on Hindsight they rarely do. Even Books About Miles Davis – which many have argued is the band’s best song – in which it’s simply a guitar and Mikey Erg’s vocals for 2/3s of the way through, is weakened by the almost lounge-like guitar noodling peppered throughout. I just wish they’d go for it, you know?
The best song on the album, It’s OK To Hate Me, is actually an Apers cover, and by the time Nasty Ho and the awful funk of Steering Clear In The New Year makes it way out of the speakers, I’m pretty much over it. After listening to this thing multiple times, scouring the liner notes and song explanations, I still don’t get the appeal. I’ll grudgingly admit that The Ergs! may just be too goddamn smart for me.
Still, Hindsight… probably has hardcore fans of the band shitting themselves. It’s a completist’s dream. Collecting oodles of out-of-print singles, split 7”s, comp songs, covers, alternate versions of songs and all-around general effluvia, it’s a pretty stellar package. Complete with lyrics and short song explanations, it’s one of those collections that, had I been one of those die-hard fans, I’d have been stoked. And while they are a terrific live band, I was looking forward to straight-forward pop punk stuff ala Kind Of Like Smitten or Pray For Rain, and while Hindsight… has a formidable 33 songs, very few of em deliver that. Again, maybe it’s me, but because of their musical proficiency, they unfortunately come across as more of a spoof/joke band here. If you’ve never heard em before, grab one of the full lengths first.