Monday, October 13, 2003


Mike Errico

by Wayne Robins

Say this about Mike Errico: The singer-songwriter is either unusually adept at creating disturbed characters, or he is one dangerous puppy. I prefer to think that the characters on his CD "Skimming" (Velour) are works of a vivid imagination rather than autobiographical. The streets are safer that way.

Errico is one of a new breed of edgy singer-songwriters, a school which includes frequently dropped names like Ani diFranco and Lach. Errico, to me, seems even more extreme: he doesn't want to be the new Dylan as much as the new Freddy Krueger. He's out to disturb your inner peace. He does this seductively, with lovely melodic surfaces camouflaging frightening emotional imbalances.

The first song, the pleasantly melodic "When I Get Out of Jail," has the easygoing confessional tone of John Lennon's early solo work. The defiant inmate in "Free" uses sharply-etched details of a monthly parole board or psychiatric hospital release committee meeting ("I'll watch them drink water/from crystaline glasses...Around a smoldering pile of ashes") to condemn those who would judge his sanity. And "Monday Morning" is a most peculiar love song, invoking Lee Harvey Oswald as "the patron saint of those who act alone."

"Skimming" seems painstaking in its track order, as the songs evolve from mutterings of madness to utterings of love and lust. "Strawberry Song" begins with a vision of a woman at the sink with a knife, but soon the sink is forgotten in a swirl of spontaneous eroticism. "(Not So) Sad" is a bitter recounting of a carnal afternoon with a married woman in which the singer's self-loathing is exceeded only by his detestation of his partner. The closing song, "Underwater," has undercurrents the voice can't control, with suggestions of intimacy, suicide, and perhaps the threat of murder mingled in one creepy but alluring package.

The character or characters Errico has created are not beyond redemption, though they certainly gyrate close to the edge. The beautifully sung "Grace," reveals a desire to live with the nobility the title suggests, while the title song tells of a life skimming like a stone on top of the water. The price of slowing down is simply falling, "into the cool green of a brand new dream." Are Errico's songs dreams, or his own too-real nightmares? The spare yet edgy arrangements and word-darts of anger are inconclusive, but intensely compelling for precisely that reason.

(c) Wayne Robins, 2003. All rights reserved. Syndication requests welcome.

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