As the guitarist of brainy hardcore band Fucked Up, Ben Cook doesn’t necessarily come off as a fan of power pop. But he’s hardly a stranger to un-punk waters, having dabbled in everything from ’80s pop (Yacht Club) to dance pop (Young Governor) over the course of numerous side projects.
Still, the gulf between hardcore and power pop is a wide one, which makes Cook’s latest solo effort such a happy, unexpected surprise. On Ripe 4 Luv, Cook, now operating under the revamped moniker Young Guv, threads the two genres together with enough string to make sense of the hybrid. Over the course of eight tracks, Cook makes generous use of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s pop sounds he clearly has a special affection for.
While many songs are run through a distorted wringer, those influences take center stage in a way they never could with Cook’s day job. The odes to Big Star, The Replacements, and Teenage Fanclub are impossible to look past, especially on grinding yet sweet-sounding tracks like “Crawling Back to You” and “Kelly, I’m Not a Creep”. Cook is also successful when he’s more deliberate in his pop pretensions. The synth-y title track packs some infectious hooks, as do the similarly streamlined “Aquarian” and the lush “Living the Dream”.
Young Guv may end up being resigned to a side project, no more and no less. But Ripe 4 Luv leaves you wanting more, and there’s no reason to think that Cook couldn’t make a serious run with this project if he wants to. Even though it has a foot planted in two very different camps, Ripe 4 Luv’s pop smarts save what could have easily turned into a messy genre exercise in lesser hands.
Essential Tracks: “Crawling Back to You”, “Kelly, I’m Not a Creep”, and “Ripe for Love”