Young Guv

Guv II

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With Guv I, Young Guv's mastermind and sole member Ben Cook set the dials of the time machine back to the early 1990s and came back through the portal with a bright, shiny, and slightly weird collection of power pop gems strong enough to measure up to the best work of big players like Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub. While it would be nice to tell power pop aficionados that Guv II is another brilliant installment of chiming guitars, open-hearted hooks, and swinging tempos, that's only half the case. Cook wanted this installment to sound more like a collection of singles, and it collects sounds and styles that he's touched on throughout his time playing under Young Guv. There are a handful of hooky, jangling power pop tunes -- just enough to remind fans of Guv I why they loved it so much. "Try Not to Hang on So Hard" is a huge rocker with pitched-up vocals and whale-sized hooks, the Paisley Underground-inspired "She's a Fantasy" brims with pristine jangle and lovely vocal harmonies, and "Can I Luv U in My Own Way" is a slinky slice of power pop balladry that sounds like the best song Sloan's written since forever ago. Not only does Cook continue to show mastery of power pop, he knocks out sweet R&B-leaning late-night jammers ("Caught Lookin'"), soft rock ballads that have a woozily nostalgic glow ("Forgot to Feel") and swooning choruses ("Can't Say Goodbye"), and glittering '80s-style new wave rockers ("Song About Feeling Insane"). While it might have been nice for Cook to make Guv II a true follow-up to Guv I and stick to nailing second wave power pop, it's also nice to hear that he hasn't lost any of his previously established skills at coming up with sticky hooks, flowing melodies, and weird arrangements that translate to a wide range of styles. If anything, they are honed to an even sharper point than before, and this record is both a note-perfect summing up and a great introduction to the Young Guv universe.

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