Young Guv // Ripe 4 Luv
Recommended Track: Crawling Back To You
Here’s the weird thing about pop music: it operates in mutually exclusive dichotomies. It is somehow both all ego (singular) and completely universal (communal). From “Be My Baby” to “Shake It Off,” pop manages to combine the experience of being The Only Listener with the effect of striking a common chord that resonates with thousands, if not millions, of people. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this elusive element of pop “magic.” The search for the perfect pop song is really just searching for magic—something ethereal and inexplicable that manifests itself in the fulfillment of real world, tangible desires.
Ben Cook, the Toronto-based mastermind behind Young Guv, is no pop novice. He plays guitar in Fucked Up, a hardcore band who are more Rites of Spring than Black Flag in their sandpaper surface covering an emotional pop heart. He’s also a professional songwriter who has worked with, among countless others, the very queen of pop herself, Taylor Swift. This fucker is no bedroom synth monkey; Cook knows precisely what the fuck he’s doing, and Ripe 4 Luv showcases the powerful talents of a pop genius in the flush of his prime.
No immediate comparison for this record comes to mind. Young Guv’s Ripe 4 Luv manages to sound both wholly itself and utterly peerless. Each track suggests a relationship to some bygone pop zeitgeist yet still somehow manages to sound fresh. That, really, is the hallmark of perfect pop: familiar and yet somehow completely unique. That’s what listening to Ripe 4 Luv is like. I can’t believe these songs haven’t existed before this.
Each song on this record bears a striking resemblance to the work of other pop auteurs as varying as Dwight Twilley, whose legacy is heard here in Cook’s pitchperfect usage of heavy slap back delay on his vocals on “Crushing Sensation” and “Ripe For Luv,”, which also has a notable a trace of Elvis’s lasting influence on pop and country; and Serge Gainsbourg (just listen to the last track “Wrong Crowd” and don’t tell me you can’t picture the cover to Melodie Nelson); and Mac DeMarco, whom Cook easily outshines with the hazy latenight burner “Aquarian”. And then there’s the lovesick pleading anthem “Kelly I’m Not A Creep,” which evokes Songs From Northern Britainera Teenage Fanclub wholly Young Guv. Penultimate track “Living the Dream” cribs guitar vibes from the Byrds and yet sounds nothing like any Byrds song I’ve ever heard.
What with the whole Pharrell/Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye fuckery, Ripe 4 Luv’s timing could not have been more beautiful of an accident: here is a record that celebrates the atmosphere and feeling of countless classic pop records from halcyon days yet spins them together into one of the most cohesive and power positive pop albums released in recent memory. This is perfect pop because it is both completely singular and yet wholly built upon the quagmire of the collective pop unconsciousness.
There’s no real formula for pop music. Or: there is precisely a formula, and the only surefire way to score a pop hit is to upset the formula while teasing just enough of its familiarity. It’s why there are a hundred million pop songs but only a handful of timeless hits (and, honestly, I could probably count them off on my fingers and toes with digits to spare). Some people call it the X Factor. The French call it the je ne sais quoi (which translates, typically, into “I don’t know what…”). Whatever you want to call it, it’s magic, and Young Guv has certainly found it. The songs on this album are fucking sunrises, they are the brimming fire of the promise of a new day. Ain’t that enough?