Release Date: Mar 10, 2015
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Beneath Fucked Up’s gruff hardcore exterior, there’s always been an implicit sense of melody and pop adventure. These sensibilities were probably most evident in their spin off concept album David’s Town (a fake compilation that explored the British pop scene of UK town Byresdale Spa) but they’re also buried deep in the band’s most savage work. Young Guv is the current chosen moniker for Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook and, on the evidence of Ripe 4 Luv, it would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that Fucked Up’s penchant for harmony comes primarily from him.
When John G. pitched Young Guv to the Punknews reviewers Facebook group, I was instantly intrigued. One of the guitarists of Fucked Up was moonlighting as an 80s pop songwriter? â€œIâ€™ll take it!,â€ I commented on his post.Ben Cook is the third guitarist of Fucked Up, being that he was the third to join the group, right before they launched into internet indie-stardom in 2008 with The Chemistry of Common Life.
Side projects are most exciting when artists step away from what we know them for. Young Guv, née Fucked Up's Ben Cooke, has built up a public persona over the last 15 years as a hardcore kid, so showing a deft hand for pop music isn’t the first guess for solo material. Admittedly he's reportedly written songs for Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 – and Fucked Up have always shown flair for harmony under all the shouting - but still, affiliation with international superstars is naturally more surprising than a place on a prestigious indie label.
The video for Young Guv’s "Crushing Sensation" plays like a failed Rocky montage. Inspired by the images of athletes posted around his apartment, singer Ben Cook rolls out of bed, throws on some sweats, and hits the streets. His heart’s not in it, though: He attempts some pull ups and listlessly swipes at a punching bag, but mostly he putters around the city, kicking snow, smoking cigarettes, and staring at nothing in particular.That same noncommittal attitude has carried through Cook’s many bands outside of his primary gig playing guitar for Fucked Up.
As the guitarist of brainy hardcore band Fucked Up, Ben Cook doesn’t necessarily come off as a fan of power pop. But he’s hardly a stranger to un-punk waters, having dabbled in everything from ’80s pop (Yacht Club) to dance pop (Young Governor) over the course of numerous side projects. Still, the gulf between hardcore and power pop is a wide one, which makes Cook’s latest solo effort such a happy, unexpected surprise.
Ben Cook is a restless musician, not content to just be doing one thing when he could be doing three. While serving as guitarist in Fucked Up, he was in a string of really good bands/projects like Roomates, Marvelous Darlings, and Yacht Club, where the main thread running through each has been Cook's King Midas-like touch when it comes to crafting sticky sweet pop music. With Young Guv, Cook may be doing his best work yet.
Ben Cook’s musical CV is nothing if not varied: a member of Canadian hardcore bands No Warning and Fucked Up and penner of pop-punk anthems for Sum 41, he also claims to have worked as a ghostwriter for Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. We perhaps shouldn’t be surprised, then, that this solo project sounds absolutely nothing like any of the above: instead, it focuses on a jangly indie-pop sound that recalls C86 and Big Star (especially the echo-laden power-pop of Crawling Back to You). What elevates Ripe 4 Luv beyond mere pastiche is Young Guv’s desire to branch out: Aquarian sounds like a slow jam recorded underwater, whereas the smooth 80s soul of Wrong Crowd is written from the perspective of a wrongly accused man writing to his wife from jail.
With new albums flying at us left and right in a DIY age where anything you doodle on your laptop could become tomorrow’s viral hit, plenty of great stuff still falls between the cracks even for music journalists. Here’s the amazing music we’ve been waiting to tell you about ever since we first discovered it: bedroom power-pop revivals and indie spins on campfire folk, dark electronics, textured French pop, and hippie-hating literary punk. These are the other records that SPIN loved this month.
If you haven't been paying close attention, you might be surprised that Ben Cook's new album as Young Guv is so unabashedly perky pop. After all, his biggest claim to fame is playing in two of Canada's most successful hardcore punk bands, Fucked Up and No Warning. But Ripe 4 Luv's glistening harmonies and platinum-pop hooks seem less left-field if you've been following the Toronto musician's ever-growing list of startlingly diverse side projects or his ghostwriting for chart-topping mainstream acts.