Hunx And His Punx are a bit style over substance. That name, those promo photos, this album art – it doesn’t necessarily paint an image of a band that wants to be recorded, as much as a bunch of guys who want to be in a band. The San Francisco quintet channel the glitzy, pan-gender exuberance of the Scissor Sisters in a club, but on record they just sound like a rickety, garage-pop rock band, albeit a pretty good one.
Silly costumes and inter-song banter don’t generally translate to an album, so Too Young To Be In Love is refreshingly focused on songs. Their flashiness takes a back seat to the same raw, jangled melodies which have defined plenty of other sprouting rock bands; Phil Spector-informed harmonies, sandy guitar jitters, and a cracked croon. But what keeps Hunx And His Punx distinguished is Seth Bogart, the titular Hunx. The clouds of lo-fi are handy for sheepish singers, but Bogart keeps his gaudy self fully exposed through the length of the record. His bratty cadence sits at the heart of their sound, and it gives the saccharine songs an added dose of rosy nostalgia. Bogart makes for a natural teen-pop diva; lamenting his transplanted young age or reinterpreting the innocence of neutered brill-building songwriting into a much more lascivious affair.
Lovers Lane becomes a bloody, gothic ballad, the breakup of the title track warps into a twinkling tribute to the fresh pain of first heartache. There’s a distinct love for this sort of stormy, epochal songwriting. The musical embellishments are light, brittle guitars, waterlogged bass and cheesy keyboards, but that pastiche makes the album even more lovable. One of the best songs If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are) is also the simplest, reining in the storytelling into a call-and-response punctuated by Shannon Shaw’s faded, Ronettes-channeling voice. A lot of bands try to update the vinyl-crackle sounds of love-crazy ’50s pop, but few just try to emulate it. Hunx has a borrowed memory for this type of soundcraft, and the addition of his flamboyance turns the band from a tribute into something that truly feels like it fell out of an alternative history.
The problem Too Young To Be In Love has is its cuteness. Nobody is ever going to mistake it as a classic or something worthy of extended attention; in fact, the same things that make it great, the doe-eyed demeanor, the clear imitation of long-overshadowed songwriters, will probably be the main points of contention. Hunx And His Punx are happily basic, and that has resulted in a half-hour of impeccable golden-age pop, but there’s certainly no great cosmic significance here. Yet it’s still easy to get excited about a half-hour of impeccable golden-age pop, and in that mindset it’s well worth a few spins.