Instagram has changed my life in many ways. On the bright side, it has given me many international opportunities, such as writing for this brilliant magazine. On the negative side, it has rendered my attention span so useless that chances are, I reached down and stared at my phone screen before I even finished typing this sentence (I actually didn’t. There is hope for me.). However, in the former category, I have been introduced to countless new songs and bands thanks to a mixture of advertisements and random posts on the site.
Recently, I was scrolling mindlessly through my phone when I stumbled across an artist by the name of Young Guv. I vaguely recalled having seen the name before, but I hadn’t investigated further because I figured he was just another rapper. However, I stopped on the post that had come up in front of my indifferent eyes and took a listen to the clip. Immediately, I emerged from my stupor as the chorus of the song, which was called “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” floated into my ears. The song had the trappings of late 70’s power-pop mixed with the sheen of mid-90’s alt-rock. Shining guitars popped out over crisp drums, melodic bass, peppy tambourine, and the almost saccharine vocals of the project’s mastermind, Ben Cook.
Stunned, I played the clip over and over again before it occurred to me that I ought to go and listen to the actual song. I listened to it a few times and enjoyed it greatly. It almost felt like a guilty pleasure; surely this was some cynical cash grab. The production was too clean, the vocal harmonies too ear-catching, the guitar tone too sunny. However, over the course of the past month, “Only Wanna See U Tonight” has repeatedly floated back into my head until I relent and listen to the song again.
I then took the big risk of exposing myself to the rest of Young Guv’s catalog. From the beginning, I was worried that Guv’s other songs wouldn’t stack up to the pop glory of “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” so I approached them with trepidation. I was proven joyfully wrong. “It’s Only Dancing” brings the energy of the earliest days of new wave, with guitars caked in the chorus and the drums providing an insistent and instantly groovy treadmill for the song to run on. The song brings to mind Joe Jackson, Rick Springfield, and Bruce Springsteen. If you told me that this song was from 1981, I would absolutely believe you. Even the production works on that level, which is a surprising feat in a world where a lot of pop stars try to ape the 80’s “sound” by throwing atmospheric synths on their music.
Other gems in Guv’s catalog include “Lo Lo Lonely,” which cranks the distortion to a point reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. Emphasizing the influence of the latter band, Cook’s vocals ooze through the song like Matt Sharp’s on The Rentals’ sophomore album Seven More Minutes. Moving in the complete opposite direction is “Caught Lookin’,” a song that sounds like what you’d get if you stuck Mac Demarco in a DeLorean. Gently plucked acoustic guitars meet swirling synths and grooving bass. The overall feel is funky and suave, which is punctuated by female backing singers and a subtle drum machine that hits at just the right moments. An airy saxophone firmly ends any debate.
Overall, Ben Cook and company have shown that they can write some real fine songs. They accomplish the difficult task of writing guitar pop that isn’t overproduced but doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia. Their next release, a double album consisting of Guv III and Guv IV, is expected on March 11th through Run For Cover Records.