Published Oct 23, 2019But wait, there's more! Ben Cook, best known as a member of Toronto punk bands Fucked Up and No Warning, has come out with his solo project Young Guv's second album this year and third in just over a year-and-a-half. Like the Use Your Illusion I and II of indie pop, GUV II, coupled with GUV I before it, are considered two parts of a whole that totals 17 songs. Yet it's probably more than anyone but the utmost devotees asked for, considering this second volume doesn't offer much not already heard abundantly on the earlier release.
If the aesthetic of I was all about the '60s and '70s, II leaves one foot in that era while planting the other firmly in the '80s, often revisiting the neo-disco sound of Young Guv's 2018 record 2 Sad 2 Funk. "Caught Lookin'" is a song made to be played by Cyndi Lauper, Woodstock hippies or both. "Trying to Decide" calls back to the British Invasion, "Can I Luv U In My Own Way" oozes with the woozy yacht-rock of Mac DeMarco and "Song About Feeling Insane" has the surf-rock pep of the Beach Boys. Foster the People spring to mind at any given moment.
But the way a given song sounds is really just one of several in a series of experiments in superficial aesthetics. Cook's main ambition is to write songs that, at their root, have grooves, bops and an infectious hook (look to "Try Not to Hang on So Hard" for the most rockin' of the lot). No matter what era or region it recalls, it's bound to sound pleasurably familiar.
This was more true with Guv I — an all-around more solid record, making Guv II feel a bit more like leftover parts than an essential second act — but Cook's knack for songwriting is nonetheless clear. At the very least, this sequel is an extra show of musical prolificacy and a good portfolio-stuffer with which to chase more work as a hired gun. (Cook's co-writing credits are said to include some major stars in pop music.)
While it's unlikely that we'll see a Young Guv tune topping the pop charts anytime soon, Ben Cook the songwriter is letting us know he can churn out a tune and has some hits up his sleeve. (Run For Cover)