John Young

The Life of Ermie Scub

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Canadian John Paul Young (not to be confused with the Brit-pop star of the same era) released The Life of Ermie Scub after leaving the Cardboard Brains, a popular Toronto art-punk club band who had put out a few records and toured with such bands as Bauhaus and the Stranglers. A concept solo album (truly solo, Young wrote, co-produced, and played most of the instruments), Ermie Scub is a rather bleak tale of an introverted child struggling with confusion and loneliness, trying to figure out his place in a hostile world: "Have you seen the boy in the gutter with the broken mind?" Musically. it is a minor synth-pop gem, a postcard from a time when synthesizers offered unlimited possibilities, when an electronic rhythm section eliminated the need for drummers and bass players, and layered composition was all the rage. Like much music of this time, Ermie Scub can seem overbearing and pretentious at times, yet riveting and creative at others. Fans may hear echoes of Depeche Mode or the British New Romantic groups, but when Ermie Scub was released these bands were in the future. Young's work here was cutting-edge upon its release; innovative and current synth-pop. The club hit "Our Time Escapes" survives well, and now sounds like a minor Wall of Voodoo hit; other songs didn't age as well, but that doesn't detract from the overall warped and upbeat pleasure of the album. It was a local success for the Young, winning a Casby "People's Choice" award for Best New Artist in 1982. John Young went on to become a successful television actor, and has reunited the Cardboard Brains several times; a best-of compilation which included several solo compositions went quickly in and out of print. So for fans of minimal synth-pop, the 1979-1981 Toronto art-punk scene, or new wave in general, the only way to hear The Life of Ermie Scub is on the original vinyl. Good luck finding it.