With the current musical landscape littered with both So-and-so and the So-and-so monikered bands and 60s girl group-aping types, obsessed with the John Hughes hazy pastel Americana vision of high school tribulations, letterman jackets and vintage cars, it’d be so easy to screw up the piece of paper detailing Hunx and His Punx into a neat ball and nonchalantly shoot it into the nearest bin, feet on desk, chair set to recline. But then if you did that, you’d be missing out. Missing out on the drama and the heartbreak, the power in the simplicity, the scuzz’n’roll thrills served up in a battered leather jacket and eye-masking shades.
There’s a multitude of factors on Too Young To Be In Love that set Seth Bogart and his all-girl quartet (led by Shannon Shaw) apart from all the other Grease-gone-hip wannabes drolly curling their lips and whining about their 7th grade sweethearts. For starters, there’s the way Hunx gives the spotlight to the ladies trilling along with him as much as he takes it himself – a rare find in bands whose very name singles out one member above all others. Standing off to the side, he narrates his tales of young love and lust in that nasal hum (close your eyes and you could almost imagine it’s Woody Allen embarking on a new career in rock’n’roll musicals) whilst the Punx take on the storytelling in choral fashion, bringing a spark to the often gloomy subject matter. Other times, he’ll slope back to centre stage and growl his heart out – like on ‘Bad Boy’, where Bogart rails against a less than respectable love interest, trading call and response snarls with the cavernous lungs of Shaw.
Whilst the themes Bogart is singing about aren’t exactly fresh territory – especially not amongst those with a penchant for similar stylings – the absurd brilliance of the 10 songs presented here allows Hunx to race to the front of the pack. The shrill organ on ‘He’s Coming Back’ adds light to a song about warning off an over-zealous admirer that you’re boyfriend’s coming back to town whilst Shaw’s doleful tones and Bogart’s “I wish I had a grey hair or two” simpering on ‘The Curse of Being Young’ set up perfectly the typical teenage mindset of imagining life to be easier when your age isn’t suffixed by a ‘-teen’.
And that’s the mainstay and central focus of Too Young To Be In Love – the ridiculous melodrama of the adolescent psyche and how extraordinarily gigantic every single failed romantic tryst seems, at least until the next one comes along. “When I saw you I knew you were the one,” begins the record’s title track before the positivity ebbs away into heartache as Hunx collapses into hopelessness, sighing “I should’ve listened to my mom/I knew I shouldn’t have taken you to that prom/And now that it’s all come to an end/Nothing can mend my teenage heart again.”
Heavy duty sobbing-into-pillows-on-date-night climaxes on ‘Blow Me Away’ as there’s the admission that Hunx will love whoever’s left him feeling so down forever, wanting to “blow [his] troubles down the drain” in an act of ultimate forgiveness and dedication. Floating away into the distance with the last line of “Close your eyes and come away with me” reverberating until the very end, it’s all too clear this isn’t yet another lo-fi retrospective gaze at a period of life that is all too often represented in soft focus. Of course, some songs shine brighter than others and the likes of ‘If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are)’ and ‘Keep Away From Johnny’ lack the dewy twinkle of the rest of the record. Flirting with the unimpressionable, they come in danger of wilting under the glare of the stronger submissions that lie either side of them. But, for the most part, it’s a thrilling ride through the bumpy years of formative dalliances, surging with the raw, tender pain of first loves lost and those nights where you feel like you’re destined to be alone forever.