Young Guv is Ben Cook. You may know the dedicated and prolific songwriter from his work and partake in F’cked Up and No Warning. Today he’s announced GUV I, a collection of staggeringly poignant and infectious pop music and label debut for Run For Cover which sees its release August 2. Alongside, he’s unveiled the album’s lead single and video “Every Flower I See.”
Cook explains, “Flowers have been a powerful and prominent symbol in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my mom moved me and my little brother back to Toronto from the U.K. where she found a job working with plants and flowers in the back of a newspaper. She worked long hours there, but also somehow managed to keep an immaculate and beautiful garden of her own while raising us by herself.”
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, a band that pioneered a self-aware, technically proficient, highly allusive style of New York hardcore that has dominated the subgenre in scenes all over the world for closing in on two decades and counting. Think of F’ed Up, for which he’s played guitar since 2006, the aesthetically omnivorous, thematically ambitious punk-rock-deconstructing semioticians. 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.
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 cheekily subverted – has been under the umbrella of Young Guv, or Young Governor, or Guv, or whatever he may at the time have been calling the entity that, since 2008, has released a steady drip of singles and EPs, plus two full-lengths. Sometimes Young Guv songs have guitars and British Invasion harmonies; sometimes they have synths and a modulated voice. But always they have choruses you’ll never forget and lyrics whose dry wit and understated acuity knocks you flat.
Cook describes Young Guv songs as akin to “people-watching in a foreign country in the morning, trying not to cry from the overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness.” Another way of putting it would be that Young Guv songs are about being alone. And this at a time in history when more people feel more alone than ever before. And so, as if sensing an opportunity for some kind of communion, Young Guv has made a discography out of conjuring the peculiar desolation that arises when you’re somehow by yourself in a discrete physical space – perhaps in a small Brooklyn apartment in the heat of a New York summer – 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 will, you’re ultimately forced to admit, become anything more than a briefly transfixing stranger, at best a wraith that haunts your dreams.