August 1, 2012

Album Review: Young Guv and the Scuzz's A Love Too Strong EP

When you play in a band whose albums are constantly acclaimed and their most recent effort even ranked at the top of some peoples' Best Albums of the Year list, the task of carving out your own mark has got to be a bit easier thanks to increased visibility, yet a bit of a challenge as well due to the expected comparisons that will be made. Ben Cook is best known for giving Fucked Up's brand of progressive hardcore their signature gliding guitar sound, but he's been quietly putting his six-string shearing to use on his own under the moniker Young Guv. His back catalog has quickly amassed to almost a dozen singles and two previous EPs, but his latest, A Love Too Strong is the former Canadian child actor-turned-punk rocker's most confident and calculated material to date -- One that establishes Ben Cook as a formative songwriter rather than a smaller part of a greater whole.

Maybe it's a benefit to his early days sharing an on-screen bromance with Ryan Gosling on the set of Road to Avonlea and later becoming the clean cut looker behind Fucked Up's often bloody stage presence, but Cook quite effortlessly balances songwriting that's equally sweetened by power pop's nectar as well as grated with punk rock bad assery here on A Love Too Strong. As a Fucked Up fan, it's comforting to hear the ripply guitar during the EP's opening moments on "Heal Over Time," but it's even more rewarding to hear Cook use that signature guitar lick as a stepping off point to unravel the varying facets in his sound. "Classic" might be the best way to describe what it is, as each track hits a different mark on timeless pop rock perfected by yesterday's greats such as the Nerves, the Replacements and Exploding Hearts alongside a modern edge that's being done well by like-minded contemporaries such as the Men, Nude Beach and Cooks' other garage rock outfit, Marvelous Darlings. For every song that maintains upbeat integrity despite the coy heartache ("Wounds of Love", "Not In It for the Good Time",) there's a fully-amped kiss-off ("Not My Flaws," "I Am the Rogue.")

Unlike most garage-influenced listens, there's one admirable trait that distinguishes A Love Too Strong away from the pack, however, and it's recording engineer Steve Chahley's capturing of every flicker and sparkle tapped by Cook and his backing band the Scuzz inside the studio. Six songs doesn't sound like enough time to cohesively collect together one genre's celebrated spectrum in one listen, but on Young Guv's latest EP, Ben Cook proves that a well-rounded sonic discipline, the right tools and some modern tweaks makes that task a bit easier.

Young Guv and the Scuzz's A Love Too Strong EP is available now on Southpaw Records.

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