Ben Cook's third full length as Young Guv is a flawless trip through the very best indie pop has to offer
Over the seven years that ex-F***ed Up guitarist Ben Cook has been recording as Young Guv, he’s rarely stayed still for too long. Early EPs and singles flirted with bedroom pop, electronica and even some funky flourishes, all building up to the 90s power pop euphoria of 2019’s Guv I and Guv II albums. The through line connecting those disparate styles and influences is Cook’s remarkable pop melodies; whether he’s blasting out fuzzy guitar chords or 80s synths and drum machines, his songs stick and stick fast.
Young Guv returns with another double set this year, introduced by Guv III. Almost immediately, the bright, chiming guitars and descending chords of ‘Couldn’t Leave U If I Tried’ suggest that Cook has spent the intervening years listening to Tom Petty’s records with Jeff Lynne and their spiritual ancestors, particularly The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man.
From there, Cook embarks on a whirlwind tour through short, hooky songs that all sound like lost hits from yesteryear. ‘It’s Only Dancin’’ finds him bouncing off the walls, desperate to get out and strut his stuff, while ‘Lo Lo Lonely’ kicks the doors in with a screeching guitar intro that juxtaposes beautifully with Cook’s soft vocals. If Cheap Trick had recorded it in the 80s, it might have been their biggest hit. ‘She Don’t Cry For Anyone’ does British invasion throwback better than anyone in recent memory, while ‘Take Up All My Time’ weaves a welcome microdose of hazy psychedelia into the mix.
When Cook eases off the pedal ever so slightly, the results are even more stunning. ‘Good Time’ finds him back in Full Moon Fever mood, with 12-string acoustics and layers of “oohs” and “aahs” adding a lovely sheen to a simple and romantic mid-tempo ballad. It’s not just the best song on the record or Young Guv’s best song to date – even a less hyperbolic listener would be tempted to call it the best indie pop song of the year.
There’s no doubt that Guv III is Young Guv’s most cohesive album yet and the next high point in an ever-upwards trajectory. With Cook on such sterling form, Guv IV can’t come soon enough.
Get Guv III from Run For Cover Records. Stay tuned for details of Young Guv’s rescheduled UK tour.