The origin story behind Young Guv’s third album, Guv III, suggests the makings of an epic, psychedelic saga. During 2020, with the whole world compelled to anchor in place, Ben Cook and his bandmates sought refuge in the New Mexico high desert in a house dubbed The Earthship. They shared a communal existence, cooking everyday and swimming in the Rio Grande and admiring the majesty of the mountains that surrounded them. Their story evokes visions of hippies seeking enlightenment in the vast inspiration of nature’s bounty, or maybe just a prime backdrop for doing a lot of shrooms, but probably not writing the songs that would become an infectious and shimmering set of jangly power pop.
Guv III doesn’t find the band delving into extended passages of feather-soft new age keyboards or noodly stoner rock jams, but rather polishing and growing ever closer to perfecting their immaculate three- and four-chord pop anthems. As a former member of Fucked Up, Cook has proven his versatility, but over time it grows increasingly clear just how adept he is at crafting pop hooks that can stand with the best of Teenage Fanclub, Big Star or even Tom Petty. On a track like “Lo Lo Lonely,” for instance, there’s plenty of blazing guitar bombast to go around, but it’s in the subtle sonic layers and hypnotic vocal harmonies that it transforms from a perfectly enjoyable rock song to one that makes you realize how much fun rock music can still be.
The first of a planned double album (but released in separate installments), Guv III neither sounds as if it’s missing a second component nor feels bogged down in concept—if there’s even really one to speak of, other than the idea of two albums written in the same span of time. Ultimately, the concept is comes down to making guitars sound great, Cook and company crafting some of the best contemporary guitar pop through a deceptively simple approach. The chorus of “Only Wanna See You Tonight” delivers a transcendent and innocently romantic application of Saturday-night-in-’74 hooks, “Good Time” finds prime fodder in the tried-and-true juxtaposition of electric and acoustic guitars, and “She Don’t Cry For Anyone” carries more than a little badass strut in its swirl of Rickenbacker 12-string riffs.
While there are few psychedelic visions to speak of on Guv III, there’s an unmistakable harmony in these 11 songs—both figuratively and literally. They’re all impeccably written and arranged songs, none of them crossing that four-minute line and not a single one of them capable of wearing out their welcome. Young Guv aren’t radically rethinking rock music, just proving that—when done this well—it never really loses its appeal.
Label: Run for Cover
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.