Young Guv is dedicated and prolific songwriter Ben Cook. Today he’s announced the second part of his double LP series, GUV II, coming via Run For Cover on October 25. Just off the heels of his acclaimed album GUV I, released earlier in the summer, GUV II serves as a sequel collection of profoundly poignant and infectious pop tunes with choruses you’ll never forget and lyrics whose dry wit and understated acuity will knock you flat.
He’s revealed the album’s lead single “Try Not To Hang On So Hard” which Cook notes was written “on a bit of acid. I was house-sitting for my mom and looking at all the photos and all the very British trinkets she keeps around and on her walls that make her happy. It had a pretty profound emotional effect on me, probably due to the LSD, so I wrote a song about how it’s ok to feel a little lost or lonely and to keep things around you that make you feel comforted.”
Think of the contemporary guitar music that’s meant something to you in the last 18-odd years. Ben Cook has probably had something to do with making it or influencing it. Think of No Warning, which he’s fronted since he was in high school in the ’90s, who pioneered a self-aware, intertextual, and technically adept style of New York hardcore that has became a subgenre unto itself, dominating scenes all over the world for close two decades and counting. Think of Fucked Up, for which he’s played guitar since 2006, the aesthetically omnivorous, thematically ambitious punk-rock-deconstructing band-like entity that, unlike the bulk of their contemporaries in the late-2000s festival-circuit indie-rock boom, no one is ashamed of having associated themselves with. Think also of his behind-the-scenes presence, the co-writing and production work he’s done for a host of artists at all levels of renown.
Ben Cook doesn’t like talking about his music but he understands it. “To me Young Guv songs are like people-watching in a foreign country in the morning,” he says, ever the master of the vivid metaphor. “I’m there and I’m trying not to cry from the overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness.”
As it happened, when the new songs started coming in May 2018, Ben was in a foreign country, albeit one – the U.S.A. – where he knew his way around, and could speak the language, observe local custom, and blend in, effectively disappearing, into the streetscape, into thoughts and longings, and, inevitably, back into his Brooklyn apartment, in the confines of which he wrote a song every single day.
People-watching in a foreign country. Another way of putting that would be to say that Young Guv songs are about being alone. As the years have passed, as material and social conditions have conspired to make everyone feel increasingly alone, Ben has built a Guv discography out of invoking the desolation that arises when you’re isolated in physical and mental space but surrounded nonetheless by millions of other isolated, solitary people, literally any one of whom you could, for all you know, love with all your heart for the rest of your life, but almost none of whom, you’re forced to admit, will become anything more than a briefly transfixing stranger, at best a wraith that recurrently haunts your dreams.
The city told him, in its aloof way, that a great record was waiting to be written and, most important, to be offered like a bouquet of flowers to the people of the world, in a humble act of love and communion. Ben‘s been a true songwriter long enough to have recognized, and heeded, the coded command when it came. He’s since moved back to NYC and plans to stay awhile.
Young Guv recently discussed the making of a rock & roll record in 2019 and his double LP series with co-producer Tony Price over at the Talkhouse — read it all here. He’s also confirmed September dates with label-mates Turnover this month and will confirm more North American dates soon. See below for a full list and go here to pre-order GUV II, and listen to GUV I here.