Mikey Erg - Waxbuilt Castles (Cover Artwork)

Mikey Erg

Waxbuilt Castles (2019)

Don Giovanni Records

We all get older. The signs are subtle, but troublingly present. We start enjoying some of our parents’ records or our grays begin to start spilling secrets or the prescription on our glasses betray what’s in front of us. You can’t fight that and the lucky are smart enough to lean into it. The best reconcile it with the kid in them. Waxbuilt Castles is a lot like that. Undoubtedly, this is a Mikey Erg record, but at peace with some of the cool shit that becomes of us as we get older.

Laced with acoustic guitars, piano, violins, and layered harmonies, Waxbuilt Castles embraces classic rock and new wave aesthetics. Of course, this is all informed through the eyes of an artist who has cut his teeth playing in virtually every good pop-punk band in existence. “Kimberly Gofigure” is an excellent introduction to the album. Immediately you are drawn into the natural sound and smooth production as the bass slides in and out of Mikey’s open chord strumming. You can find this on “Little Crutches” and closer “Somewhere Drinking, Drinking Somewhere” too. Multi-instrument and collaborator Alex Clute nicely fills out Mikey’s straight forward song construction.

While miles away from the pop-punk Mikey is known for, these songs will contain elements that older fans will appreciate. The “& Nico” opening is quintessential Mikey that could have easily been an intro to an Ergs’ song if played on an electric guitar. Relationships still dominate the lyrics, but with a maturity stemming from adulthood. On the aptly named “Bad Decision Monday,” Mikey sings “All of a sudden / There’s a ring on your finger / All the things I could say / But I’m far too dumb to care” lamenting missed connections. The new wave inspired “Clueless or Cruel” opens up with the classic heart on your sleeve lyrics “Too have loved / Too have lost / Too have cried so much / You can’t even see through the tears.”

The album is best appreciated as a holistic listen. Waxbuilt Castles connects the largely acoustic midpiece “Waxbuilt Castles” and aforementioned closer “Somewhere Drinking, Drinking Somewhere” with accepting notions of what’s worth fighting for and what’s not. The eight minute “City Lettings” is a tension builder starting with just an acoustic and ending in a mess of white noise. While consistent throughout, there are a few moments that seem a little out of reach for what the album is trying to achieve. Although isn’t there always as we get older?

Waxbuilt Castles is another enjoyable effort from Mikey Erg. It expands on what he built on 2016’s Tentative Decisions and crafted a record intentionally pulling from older influences. It offers a new on-ramp into his discography as a musician and also likely to connect with longtime fans. That’s if they are smart enough to lean into it.