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Wreckless Eric goes on, enjoying not knowing what he’s doing

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Punk songwriter Wreckless Eric’s new recording is “Construction Time & Demolition.” (Courtesy Southern Domestic)

Since “Whole Wide World,” his first 1977 hit for Stiff Records, brainy Brit Wreckless Eric (aka Eric Goulden) has remained one of punk’s most consistently inventive artists. He writes memorable, celebratory tunes on almost any given topic, from TGIF anticipation (“It’ll Soon Be the Weekend”) to missed connections with a cute fellow commuter (“Excuse Me”) and even the cutthroat music business (“A Pop Song”). His material’s simplicity is what makes it endearing and enduring. “Whole Wide World,” for instance — a hit again last year for alterna-outfit Cage the Elephant — grabs listeners with its droll, opening Cockney-inflected line: “When I was a young boy my mama said to me/ There’s only one girl in the world for you and she probably lives in Tahiti.” He’s sounding just as sharp on his brand-new outing, “Construction Time & Demolition.”

Do you feel reinvigorated these days?

I still feel invigorated, really. It’s just been this continuing process, all the way up to recording this new album. When I finished, a friend of mine in Nashville heard it and went, “This is great! Just great!” And I’m going, “Is it OK? Can I actually get away with releasing this?” I was quite pleased that nobody had slagged it off.

Few modern composers have the same breadth of inspiration you do. They settle for repeated songs about the same relationships.

Yeah. I don’t know what songwriters do now. I observed this guy down in Jacksonville who was opening for me, and he was also doing the door. And he said, “I haven’t done any gigs for a real long time, for like two years.” But he was so good. He had one song that started with the line “I want to kiss an open field.” His songs said what they said, then didn’t say much else and just stopped. I was captivated.

Were you underappreciated on Stiff?

I probably was, yeah. But I didn’t know what I was doing then. And I still don’t, really. The difference was that it bothered me then, but now I absolutely love the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing. And I cultivate situations where I really am out of my depth, trying to do things that I really can’t do. I wrote all the songs for the new album on a piano, and I can’t actually play the piano.

You’re married to the equally great musician Amy Rigby. Do you guys wake up daily in your upstate New York home and just start writing brilliant stuff?

We never write any songs together. We’ve got co-writes, but we never sat down and wrote a song together, like, “Hey, what’s the next line?” We can’t do that — we’re very self-conscious about what we write.

IF YOU GO

Wreckless Eric
Where: Makeout Room, 3225 22nd St., S.F.
When: 7:45 and 10 p.m. June 23
Tickets: $8
Contact: (415) 647-2888, www.makeoutroom.com

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