Mikey Erg

Tentative Decisions

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Mikey Erg has been working with various bands since 2000, first as drummer, vocalist, and songwriter with the Ergs and since then with the likes of Dirt Bike Annie, the Worriers, Star Fucking Hipsters, and For Science. In what amounts to a decade-and-a-half graduate course in pop-punk, Erg has had plenty of time to work out his ideas about what makes a killer tune, and with his first proper solo album, he's shown us just how much he's learned. Released in 2016, Tentative Decisions is a smart, ambitious, and effective set of songs that range from raging and hooky rockers to spare, contemplative pop numbers. Given that most of the bands he's worked with worship at the altar of the Ramones, one of the pleasant surprises of Tentative Decisions is the imaginative structures of the songs. There's plenty of traditional uptempo downstroke in these songs, but Erg's chord changes and melodic curves are just tricky enough to give the tunes a spirit that's their own, and his guitar work has the right balance of crunch and jangle to make for a powerful merger of punk and pop. Erg's songs avoid the usual pop-punk clich├ęs and sound impressively thoughtful and adult -- almost too adult at times, though the introspection of "Apart Time," "Nyquil & Sudafed," and "Waiting Out the Winter" puts a more interesting spin on trouble with women than we usually get from folks delivering this sort of material. And the production by Jeff Rosenstock is fittingly straightforward, sometimes a bit rough around the edges but full of a rollicking piss-and-vinegar attack that works well with Erg's dry wit and bursts of rage. Plenty of folks have to make a handful of albums before they can work up to the level Erg achieves on Tentative Decisions, and his long apprenticeship has paid off with an album that's smart, tuneful, and hard-hitting.

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