May 13, 2011

Review: Hunx & His Punx - Too Young To Be In Love

There's no release in 2011 I've listened to more than Too Young To Be In Love by Hunx & His Punx. The San Francisco outfit channels late 1950s and early '60s girl group pop √† la the Ronettes and Lesley Gore through their own fuzzy, sharp, and straightforward punk rock lens. At the heart of the group is the flamboyant, nasal-toned, and punk-lisped frontman Seth Bogart who, doing his best Ronnie Spector impression, both playfully subverts and updates this classic and wholly American genre.

A girl group however is nothing without its backup singers, and here Bogart is blessed with the husky and soulful voice of Shannon Shaw from Oakland's Shannon and The Clams. Shaw is essentially Too Young To Be In Love's secret weapon: a dynamic force that keeps this ship afloat as she flexes her vocal muscle, playing strong and deep in tone to Bogart's thin, higher voice and charismatic nonchalance. The LP's 10 tracks are largely centered around call and response arrangements and the band has a serious knack for the structure. They never once come across here as inauthentic or nostalgic, but rather effortlessly natural, irresistibly fun, and undeniably skilled.

This morning as I read up on a few past reviews of the album I was appalled to find that Paste dubbed it "sombre-faced across the board" and the AV Club claimed it "short on memorable melodies." Obviously, music criticism and taste are both inherently subjective, but my reaction here has been the polar opposite. Aside from "Blow Me Away," a song about the suicide of Bogart's father, records simply don't get brighter or more upbeat. These are bubblegum pop songs featuring classic narratives of love gained and lost, told in a wholly unserious fashion, and laced with handclaps, cooing background vocals, and bouncy foot-tapping rhythms that would even give the led-footed cause for dancing. Simply put, this is celebratory music. And the melodies? They're as addictive as the sugariest candy. Since purchasing the vinyl on Record Store Day, few days have gone by without my girlfriend and I performing the call and response chorus of "If You're Not Here (I Don't Know Where You Are)"—one of the catchier vocal melodies I've heard in years.

Standouts like "Can We Get Together?"—a deliriously upbeat number about getting some stud's phone number and asking him out, while warning him, "Just don't get that look of love in your eyes"—and "Lovers Lane"—a narrative of lost love set to the backdrop of a legendary passion pit—beat along to their own distinctive beats, while sincerely paying homage to one of the more beloved periods of American pop music. Just over a half-hour long, Too Young To Be In Love proves short and sweet: rather than outstay its welcome, the record leaves you wanting more. And thankfully, these songs sound as fresh and irresistible the fourth, fifth and sixth times around as they did the first.

Hunx & His Punx - "Lovers Lane" (from Too Young To Be In Love)
Hunx & His Punx - "If You're Not Here ( I Don't Know Where You Are)" (from Daytrotter)

Too Young to Be In Love - Hunx & His Punx

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