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GUV I

by Young Guv

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about

Young Guv is Ben Cook.

Ben Cook is a songwriter, a dedicated and prolific songwriter of rare talent. The real deal.

In the summer of 2018, he 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 August, 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 mordantly subverted — has been under the umbrella of Young Guv, or Young Governor, or Guv, or whatever he may at any given 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 local custom, and blend in, effectively disappearing, into the streetscape, into thoughts and longings, and, inevitably, back into his Brooklyn apartment (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 prevailing.”

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 and mental 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 people of 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.

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released August 2, 2019

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Track Name: Patterns Prevail
trust me you don't wanna touch me
you will lie and say you love me
i wanted to be the new light in your life
trust me you don't wanna love me
i tried my best to tread lightly
i never wanted to ruin your fantasy

theres a secret runnin'
through my ear
i am rocky waters
and you are crystal clear

i can hear the whispers baby
all these secrets drive me crazy
colours shift between the shading
i can see patterns prevailing
Track Name: Roll With 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

and you can write me back someday
all i have is time to wait
but i can't wake up in my bed
alone another day

roll with me and step out
i'll die without you around
i am happy to just follow
and surrender to the sorrow
roll with me and step out

i can't place who you are
so familiar and brand new
what is it that you've got
so effortlessly cool
none of this is real at all
i watch you like a cartoon
and i feel like the biggest fool
trying to impress you
Track Name: Every Flower I See
i wish to pick you every flower i see
and before you leave (please)
just let me walk you to your door
and i, i wish to walk with you down every street
so simply
i remember everything you've ever worn
(so don't go now)
cuz I've only just begun to get to know you
and i can think of all the fun that we'd be having
do you ever watch the clouds while remembering me
sometimes i really don't believe you wanna hang with me
are you just lonely
or maybe i should give a little more
and I, i sit and watch the gardens turn from green to blue
thinking about you
i don't know if i have felt this way before
Track Name: Luv Always
I'm tired of playing along
tired of pretending I'm strong
i haven't been home in a year
so something must be wrong

broken time like cracking clay
and i don't know where I'm falling from
in a while
love always
as i lie under the fiery sun
ya its time to separate
and reflect on whats to come

you're out of work and broke
lifes the biggest joke
we;ve got nothing left
and the wind don't even blow
we've got no story to tell
we're all in the same hell
and I'm not afraid to admit
that baby I need help
Track Name: Didn't Even Cry
everybody seems to be going through some things
from what i've seen
i'm feeling it bad today
I'm not myself today
so maybe when you see me later
we could just lie together
cuz I've got something on mind
(i didn't even cry)
i feel so terrified
(i didn't even cry)
how about u
i'm just a stereotype
with these gloomy thoughts in my mind
we could walk around sometime
( didn't even cry)
untangle all the knots from our spine
(didn't even cry)
hows that sound 2 u
everybody seems to be going through some things
from what i've heard
how do you make things work for you
how do you take all the bad news
so go easy on each other
i can't even cry but i wanna
cuz I've got something on mind
(i didn't even cry)
i feel so terrified
(i didn't even cry)
spiralling down the slide
(i didn't even cry)
how do u do
Track Name: High On My Mind
looking through a telescope
at a letter in an envelope
i can't make out what she wrote
i guess i will never know

like a precious stone
high on my mind
sitting on her throne
high on my mind
eyes of indigo
high on my mind

lying on the river bed
her hair just like unwinding thread
she swims up stream
no place to be
then she floats down peacefully
Track Name: Exceptionally Ordinary
reality is not my thing
it exists so we can escape it
how far can i go
and what will it bring
if i stop now
i might never shake it
and i don't care if life stays blue
i guess this is just what i'm going through

if i could tear myself away
and end up in another place
i might not be so sick of you

how familiar a sensation
it exists for me to escape it
how exceptionally ordinary
have all my thoughts recently become
and i don't care if life stays blue
i guess this is just what i'm going through

pumping
seeding
sinking
feeling
Track Name: A Boring Story
i gave up thinking
no search in mind
don't get too clever now
they'll easily find
something wrong with you
and say
this is the only way you'll be alright

don't look back at her
you don't remember it anyways
and things were just the same as they were in those days
you're just a little older now
you're not the only one whose fading out

you're fading out

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