Thursday, April 08, 19:00
Young Guv is Ben Cook.
Ben Cook is a songwriter, a dedicated and prolific songwriter of rare talent. The real
In the summer of 2018, Ben moved from his Toronto home to a sublet in Brooklyn, and
there he began writing some of the best songs of his life.
GUV I, out on Run For Cover in July, is a collection of pop music — staggeringly
poignant and infectious pop music — written and recorded by Ben Cook throughout that
New York City summer.
* * *
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 sardonically 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 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 localcustom, and blend in, effectively disappearing, into the
streetscape, into thoughts and longings, and, inevitably, back into his Brooklyn sublet
(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. The daily pattern of
hard-won creativity borne of observing eternal, mysterious patterns of human behaviour,
his own and everyone else’s, yielded the penetrating theme of the album’s opener,
“Patterns Prevail”: “All these secrets drive me crazy,” sings Aurora Shields, Ben’s
frequent collaborator. “Colours shift between the shading / I can see patterns
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 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. Ben encapsulates the vicious cycle on “Roll Wit Me”: “I can't place who
you are / So familiar and brand new / What is it that you've got / So effortlessly cool /
You don't have to look at all / Ya why would you anyways / All I wanna do is talk / I just
don't know what to say / But I can't wake up in my bed / Alone another day.”
Ben calls GUV I, the new album, “a little ode to the place that blessed me such love and
inspiration to create so many songs I felt comfortable sharing with everyone.” 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 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.
The Lexington is an 18+ venue - please bring ID!