Ben Cook and band deliver on every front with an ear-ringing set of incredibly catchy guitar pop
Time won’t always prove you right about these things, but there are some shows that feel like a “I was there” moment, even while they’re still happening. The force with which Young Guv hit a Sunday night Brixton crowd is nothing short of ruthless, the kind of display that sticks around, even beyond the tinnitus.
Ben Cook and his band go from a standing start to 70mph in the blink of an eye, ripping through a selection from their six albums with barely a pause for breath. It’s like Cook has maintained the intensity from his old day job in Canadian punks F***ed Up but added bags and bags of hooks.
The volume and skill involved give the impression that, in their heads at least, Young Guv are unleashing these songs to Budokan instead of Brixton. Even the janglier songs, such as ‘Couldn’t Leave U If I Tried’ come out like long lost cousins to ‘Surrender’ as Cook shreds and struts with abandon.
Initially lambasting the audience (albeit with a wink) for putting him to sleep, Cook forces tambourines on a couple in the front row and then sacks his booking agent from the stage for telling him that nobody would come to the Windmill on a Sunday night. He also regales the assembled with his personal connection to Brixton: “My mother lived in a squat here. My father was the drug dealer. That didn’t end well.”
Young Guv’s records are an unpredictable bunch, veering from power pop to new wave to cosmic Americana, but it all fits together perfectly on a set list, the songs losing none of their melodic impact even at brain-threatening volume. Anything could be a highlight but the Beechwood Sparks-esque ‘Maybe I Should Luv Somebody Else’ and sugary highs of ‘Patterns Prevail’ stand out in particular.
Following the fantastic new waver ‘Ripe 4 Luv’, the band members leave the stage one by one until it’s just Cook, sitting on the ground, hammering away at the bass drum. Hollers for “one more song” are followed optimistically by one shout for “three more songs” but Young Guv leave ‘em wanting more.
Young Guv play Leeds, Birmingham and Brighton on 27 – 30 June 2022. Get tickets here.