Release Date: Mar 29, 2011
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock
Former member of sex-obsessed trash pop group Gravy Train!!!! Seth Bogart describes his band as "a girl group fronted by a gay guy who's trying to sound like a girl." This is his superb first studio album, the follow-up to 2009's Gay Singles, a collection of self-recorded gay-teenager-in-love punk rock songs that, while good, came off as a comedy album due to Bogart's relentless campy wit. Too Young To Be In Love leans less heavily on pervy wisecracks, with fantastic results. And the all-female band convincingly recreates the 60s sounds of juvenile delinquent girl groups like the Shangri-La's and the Ronettes.
The first things we hear on Too Young to Be in Love, the full-length debut from Hunx and His Punx, are wordless vocals cooing a familiar melody and the drums pounding out the iconic "Be My Baby" beat. To figure out the number of times these devices have been used over the course of the past three years, all you need is a calculator with a properly functioning multiplication key. But by the time Hunx frontman Seth Bogart alternates between speaking and singing in the first verse, all worries that the band might lean too heavily on dull, tasteful homage are thrown out of the window.
Although Hunx And His Punx are not, by a yardstick most people would use, a ‘big band’, the Oakland quintet have become demonstrably better known in the 18 months since Matador Records sublabel True Panther Sounds released Gay Singles, an LP comprised of 45s released in 2008 and ‘09 on various bedroom indies. This has been bolstered by small acts of moderate blogworthiness, such as having one of their songs soundtrack an ad for spectacles, and the penis of Hunx himself substituting for a microphone in the ‘adult’ version of Girls’ ‘Lust For Life’ video. Add in the innate tunefulness and burrowing earwormery of the garagey girl-group-pop songs on Too Young To Be In Love, their debut album and who knows – some legitimate success might fall into their lap in the near future.
Continuing a recent trend in album sequencing, Too Young to Be in Love opens with its best song ,“Lovers Lane”. It may not be so innovative—a campy girl group throwback with a twist, sung by a boy about another boy—but that doesn’t take away the greatness of this song. First off, Seth Bogart, hairdresser and trash rock impresario (aka Hunx, also in Gravy Train!!!!), and his new band of girls (re-baptized Punkettes) really nail the genre and the production (courtesy of Ivan Julian from the Voidoids).
The appeal of Hunx & His Punx, at least previous to this album, both live and on record, was that the band didn’t take itself too seriously. Led by Seth Bogart (AKA: Hunx), flamboyant homosexual and quintessential showman, the Bay Area garage outfit began cranking out infectious and often-stellar singles — try “You Don’t Like Rock ‘n’ Roll” or “Hey Rocky” — in 2008, aided by the songwriting of like-minded rocker Justin Champlin (AKA: Nobunny). Those songs were collected on the excellent Gay Singles comp, released last year on True Panther Sounds.
If it’s true, as was once asserted in no less esteemed a publication than the anarcho-queer zine Fag Rag, that “wit and irony provide the only reasonable modus operandi in the American Literalist Terror of Straight Reality,” then Seth “Hunx” Bogart may well be the most reasonable man in indie rock. Too Young to Be In Love is an arch and entertaining transposition of queercore’s snotty sexual politics onto a surprisingly sturdy amalgam of doo-wop, schmaltzy malt-shop rock, and Ramones-style punk. But where irony has become a watchword among hipsters and hipster-haters, describing the sensibility with which the deeply insecure attenuate their tastes, Hunx and His Punx exhibit a campy variant that’s more concerned with subverting the explicit meanings of their influences than with holding the audience at a distance.
Take one part Ramones, two parts 1960’s teenybopper heartbreak pop Ã la Shangri-las, and a dash of homoeroticism, and what do you get? Besides the inevitable threat of kitschiness, this combination yields an unfortunately brief collection of tracks laced with precious nostalgic charm: Hunx and His Punx‘s first proper LP, Too Young to Be in Love. Following the release of last year’s Gay Singles, an assemblage of assorted 7?s, this album continues frontman Seth Bogart’s successful foray into garage revival, leaving behind almost all of the pervasive sexuality that dominated Gravy Train!!!!’s work. Too Young to Be in Love‘s songs generally follow the same formula: cooing female background vocals, uptempo, simple chord progressions, Bogart’s atonal voice, and lyrics whose content could be plagiarized from a high school girl’s diary.
Hunx and His Punx made their full-length debut last year with Gay Singles, a brash, tongue-in-cheek rush of overtly homoerotic bubblegum-punk, equal parts syrupy 60’s girl group pop and crass come-ons in the vein of Hunx frontman Seth Bogart’s work with electropop outfit Gravy Train!!!!!. For a compilation comprised of five singles released by the band across a variety of labels over the course of two years, Gay Singles held together admirably as a cohesive work without ever intending to be one. But the band’s latest release, Too Young To Be In Love, is the first time Hunx and His Punx have tried their hand at recording a proper “album.
Sick Scenes finds Los Campesinos! raging against the passage of time and all it entails. But while the band is getting older, it's ferocious energy, earworm melodies and crackerjack lyrics are as fresh as ever. The debut studio album by British grime MC Stormzy gives a voice to both the street and religious sides of his life. He is not the best pound-for-pound spitter, but he is certainly climbing the ladder and getting close.
You can never be sure where you are with semantics. Over the decades the words ‘rock’ and ‘roll’ have become synonymous with bad behaviour, staying up past one’s bedtime and any generic noise made by guitars and drums. Then there’s the word ‘gay’. It used to mean joyful, whereas now it generally means homosexual.