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Young Guv - GUV I (Album Review)

Friday, 09 August 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Will Cox

Young Guv’s Run For Cover debut, ‘GUV I’, is so content to hang out around the best and brightest of ‘90s power-pop—think ‘Girlfriend’-era Matthew Sweet or Teenage Fanclub’s Sparky’s Dream—that it poses a searching question: why don’t more records sound like the Dumb & Dumber sountrack?

After two releases that explored bratty guitar pop (‘Ripe 4 Luv’) and downtempo, squelchy synths (‘2 Sad 2 Funk’), Ben Cook appears to have slipped into a more refined, melodically cogent phase, adding flecks of Beatles-ish psychedelia and stacks of sun-dappled harmonies to the mix.

As a guitarist—with Fucked Up and No Warning—Cook’s status as an inventive, genre-melding magpie is well founded. But here, much as it was in his short-lived, outrageously overlooked band Marvelous Darlings, there is a powerful focus underpinning these songs.

None of the eight tracks on ‘GUV I’ ramble or overstay their welcome, getting in and out in 22 hook-heavy minutes. It will be interesting to see whether part two, expected somewhere up around the bend, will repeat the formula.

Written during a Brooklyn summer (Cook had recently relocated from Toronto), ‘GUV I’ attempts to walk the happy/sad tightrope that leads to the purest strain of power-pop. At several moments, it is thrillingly successful in that pursuit. Luv Always is a tiny treasure—harmonies upon harmonies and Byrds-style jangle—that circles a universal truth for geographic transplants: “I haven't been home in a year, so something must be wrong.”

The songs to either side of it on the running order achieve the same goal in different ways. Every Flower I See is forlornly romantic and perhaps the LP’s most straight-ahead fuzz-pop moment, while Didn’t Even Cry is the ideal soundtrack to a morose stare through the window as the world passes you by. “Everybody seems to be going through some things from what I've heard,” Cook sings. “How do you make things work for you? How do you take all the bad news?”

Placed alongside Fucked Up’s sprawling, hyper-ambitious records, ‘GUV I’ might appear pedestrian in its execution. But, in reality, providing us with joyful songs about feeling bummed out has long been one of pop music’s most important functions. 

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