For an album nearly as charming as Zayn Malik, there is a lot of unexpected feedback during Young Guv’s full-length debut, Ripe 4 Luv. Even the slightly-sinful 80’s bubblegum of the title track eventually erodes into just one distracting note; a piercing tone that builds into the prim and proper diner-rock of “Crawling Back To You.” The album’s eight-tracks represent an unabashed appreciation/fascination for a time when teens were still searching through the AM dial, it just happens that the mastermind behind Young Guv, Ben Cook, is also the guitar player for Canadian hardcore punk outfit Fucked Up. Less notably, because there are self-proclaimed ghostwriting credits, Cook has also assisted the likes of Sum 41, Katy Perry and even Taylor Swift on their lucrative pop pursuits before completing this introductory solo effort.

Cook doesn’t attempt to teeter on some impossible balance between the polarizing aesthetics of his many songwriting schools, though Ripe 4 Luv cleverly pays homage to a rich history of American pop music without forgetting the complex realities of 2015. Entering into the system as psychedelically fluid as its title suggests, “Aquarian” transforms into an underwater world of bleak nothingness only punctuated by the depressed echoes of RADAR blips. It’s just natural for Cook to want to bust a few speakers, but the real focus is on keeping the listener grinning from ear to ear. During “Dear Drew,” Cook is there to calm the nerves of a recently jilted best friend — for the 33-minute running time of Ripe 4 Luv, it’s easy to imagine being that “Drew.” Like a real friend, the discussion isn’t just empty nothings and false compliments; there is truth to the moments of dismay.

At its base, Ripe 4 Luv is a passion project: a very well-deserved one. With album credits that span genres, this is a record that Ben Cook can claim all his own. Back in 1994, Weezer used “Buddy Holly” to introduce their younger indie-rock fans to some more dated sounds, Young Guv will accomplish the same with the cheeky “Kelly, I’m A Creep” and the surf-rock of album-opener “Crushing Sensation” in 2015. And even for those with Big Star vinyl collecting dust, Cook certainly brings something new to explore.

Constantly touring in support of other projects, the opportunities to perform, or watch, this album are potentially slim. However, if All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) is still doing its thing in five years, I nominate this one to be performed in its entirety — before a raucous Fucked Up set!

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