album review: hunx and his punx, too young to be in love
With a sound like Lou Reed hi-jacked The Shangri-Las and took a trip down memory lane, this is Hunx & His Punx with their debut album, Too Young To Be In Love.
Coming about a half century after the doo-wop, beach pop it lovingly channels, this collection of tunes can’t be solely judged on its musical merits alone. That is, you can’t avoid considering Too Young To Be In Love alongside the music of old to which it so conspicuously nods, and, indeed, to the plethora of modern day retrospective cover bands that do the same. And when viewed under this comparative lens, what distinguishes Hunx & His Punx from both former and latter is readily apparent.
The record opens with ‘Lovers Lane’, which could be a companion piece to The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack’, but for one minor detail (not withstanding the more sexually-charged overtones, which is almost par for the course for music in this more overtly sexual time of ours). The lead, who is singing about her beloved long-lost boy, is not actually a she. Before continuing, let it not be said that a woman can’t be a hunk. That being said, the band’s name gives a pretty strong hint that the leader of its ensemble is not of the lady variety.
Hunx is Seth Bogart, and his Punx (at the time of Too Young To Be In Love’s release) are an all-girl quartet that provide backing-vocals and play the instruments. Needless to say, homosexual love is not a theme oft explored in the mainstream music world. So for the most part, even for the heterosexual person who is completely accepting of the LGBT* community – and even, I would argue, for members of that very same community – it initially comes as somewhat of a surprise to hear a man crooning over his male love. This effect is heightened by the style of the music, which is coming express from an era when being open about one’s homosexuality had repercussions that we are only starting to chip away at today. If for no other reason than to overcome this ingrained sense of shock we feel, this album should be listened to (though we are given plenty of other reasons – the well-made, catchiness of each and every track being just one of them).
There are more surprises from the album. The title Too Young To Be In Love is a misnomer of sorts; recognising one’s extreme youth and how ill-prepared this may make you, is surely a sign of maturity (just as that old Socratic paradox pointed out – the truly wise are those who are aware of their ignorance). While the songs here may ostensibly seem like just another chapter in the weighty tome of teenage drama, there’s more to them that that. While it may not be obvious from listening to the lyrics alone, the closing track ‘Blow Me Away’ is not in fact about a failed romance, as we are expecting. It actually refers to the suicide of Bogart’s father, which occurred when the singer was just a teenager.
And, when we hear of “love and tears and pain on my face / I’ve got another million years of heartbreak”, we see an awareness that is lacking in other music of this kind. We frequently hear melodramatic descriptions of the trials and tribulations of teenage amours – and those certainly aren’t absent here, let it be said – yet this album actually acknowledges that heartbreak is not the individual’s curse. Rather, ‘That’s The Curse of Being Young’.
Too Young to be in Love is out now through Hardly Art.