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Young Guv

(Toronto)
Genre: Indie Rock

Young Guv is Ben Cook.

Ben Cook is a songwriter, a dedicated and prolific songwriter of rare
talent. The real deal.

In the summer of 2018, he moved from his Toronto home to a sublet in
Brooklyn, and there he began writing some of the best songs of his life.
GUV II, out on Run For Cover in late October, is a collection of pop
music — staggeringly poignant and infectious pop music — written and
recorded by Ben Cook throughout that New York City summer. GUV II
follows the eight tracks of the previously issued GUV I and completes
the collection of songs Cook wrote during those inspired sessions.

* * *

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 (some of the names
would surprise you).

But, for all that, the only place to hear music that belongs entirely to Ben
Cook — music that comes into the world owing nothing to a bandmate
or a client or a genre convention, whether affectionately observed or
mordantly subverted — has been under the umbrella of Young Guv, or
Young Governor, or Guv, or whatever he may at any given time have
been calling the vehicle that, since 2008, has delivered a steady supply
of singles and EPs, plus two previous full-lengths. Sometimes Young

Guv songs have guitars and British Invasion harmonies; sometimes
they have synths and modulated voices. But always they have choruses
you’ll never forget and lyrics whose dry wit and acute depictions of
intense human feeling never fail to knock you flat.

* * *

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 (he had
to be close to the New Jersey studio where he was producing the new
Terror record) 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.

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