Young Guv

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GUV IV Review

by Tim Sendra

The second Young Guv album of 2022 sees Ben Cook and his band stretching their wings and expanding their sound into some new sonic realms. GUV III was a bracing blast of uncut jangle pop sounding like a lost transmission from the mid-'80s, and while there are still songs on GUV IV that fall nicely into that category, there are excursions into cosmic country-rock, echoing psychedelia, '90s-inspired baggy dance grooves, and even late-night soft rock balladry. In the hands of a group less skilled at genre hopping, the album could have been scattered, or even disconnected. Young Guv have never been tethered to one particular style from the beginning, and are able to filter the changes through Cook's unstoppable melodic sensibility and a style of production that manages to find the sweet, jangling soul of any stylistic diversion. Basically, no matter which side street the band travel down, they always sound like Young Guv first and foremost. Even when they stray as far as they do on the shuffling, dancefloor-oriented "Overcome," which sounds like "Loaded" with a sun-drenched melody, they don't sound like dilettantes; instead, they sound like experts. The same kind of thing happens on the country-rock rambler "Maybe I Should Luv Somebody Else." After the surprise of hearing the band try on Beachwood Sparks' spurs wears off, the jingly guitars, Cook's aching vocal, and the wispy melody are what remain. Add these off-menu gems to the tracks that would have fit on GUV III -- like the tautly muscular power pop rocker "Too Far Gone," which kicks the record off on a high note -- and GUV IV is halfway to nirvana. The rest of the trip is a little less star-spangled and a little more home-cooked and weird. Quite a few of the songs on the back half of the album are drum machine-driven, and sound like warped, loner pop with queasy synths and processed vocals balanced against pedal steel and guitars played through very '80s effects. It's a more insular, less-sparkling take on jangle pop that allows Cook to display some nice moments of melancholy, like on the album-ending ballad "Wind in My Blood" or "Cold in the Summer," which are crisply clean new wave that sounds like a low-budget Wire Train. The true wild card is "Nervous Around U," a new wave novelty that sounds like the kind of track that might have snuck onto MTV at three in the morning a few times and gained the band a cult following. Again, even though the song is tricked out with cute production and strays pretty far from the core Young Guv sound, the stacked vocal harmonies, glimmering hooks, and Cook's vocals make it YG through and through. GUV IV is yet more proof that no matter the genre or sound -- whether it's the band's beloved jangle pop or something further out on the indie pop spectrum -- they are up to the challenge and will deliver the goods.

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