The heartache of loving boys on a ’50s prom night aint just kitsch but real, rebellious, painful – it makes you thrill just to be alive
You can never be sure where you are with semantics. Over the decades the words ‘rock’ and ‘roll’ have become synonymous with bad behaviour, staying up past one’s bedtime and any generic noise made by guitars and drums. Then there’s the word ‘gay’. It used to mean joyful, whereas now it generally means homosexual. In recent years it has been co-opted by nefarious swine who use it pejoratively when something isn’t very good (ie. ‘this chair is gay’). [a]Hunx And His Punx[/a] play dreamy teen rock’n’roll in its truest, ’50s-inspired form, and they are gay in almost every sense of the word: joyous, homosexual and just a little bit, well, gay.
Hailing from Oakland, California, Hunx started life playing in electropop collective Gravy Train!!!! (yes, four bangs, as if to prove they were four times better than [b]Wham![/b]), responsible for the cult classic [b]‘You Made Me Gay’[/b], which Hunx himself rapped on. Though these days he sings about being young and in love, he’s been around the block. Asked at the time if he had reservations about appearing naked in [a]Girls[/a]’ porny [b]‘Lust For Life’[/b] video he told [i]NME[/i]: “Are you kidding? One of my band’s singles for [b]‘U Don’t Like Rock N Roll’[/b] has a scratch-off cover… if you scratch it you can see my boner!”
Now we find Hunx delivering [b]‘Too Young To Be In Love’[/b], his first album proper, recorded with former [a]Richard Hell And The Voidoids[/a] guitarist Ivan Julian. Hunx lives in a perpetual world of teenage heartbreak where every night is prom night, soundtracked by [b]The Shangri-Las[/b], [a]Ramones[/a] and [a]New York Dolls[/a] and shot by John Waters, or even Pablo Almodovar before he found his directing feet.
On opener [b]‘Lovers Lane’[/b], which continues where [b]‘Leader Of The Pack’[/b] left off (even borrowing its chord sequence) Hunx is devastated by the death of his lover, who he won’t be able to pash with anymore. Sigh. On [b]‘The Curse Of Being Young’[/b] you can feel the hard-faced angst, and on [b]‘Blow Me Away’[/b], a delectable waltz with amyl-slack bass fumbling, Hunx’s little voice draws to mind a sock puppet with buttons for eyes.
The chord sequences are simple, the production lo-fi, even some of the backing vocals distorting, with floor toms and tambourine accompaniment as charmingly gauche and brittle as a teen’s first cheap-hairsprayed quiff. It’s not just kitsch, though – there’s real heart here, and Hunx And His Punx come from the same dark place as [a]The Jesus And Mary Chain[/a], even if the results are very, very different.
There are even shades of [a]Morrissey[/a] on the cautionary tale [b]‘Keep Away From Johnny’[/b]. The influence of [a]Phil Spector[/a] is everywhere, though the delivery is less Wall Of Sound and more Rockery Of Sound, or a wall that somebody started and gave up on. It’s the barefaced, half-assed charm, though, that makes [b]‘Too Young To Be In Love’[/b]so dreamy. It’s only rock’n’roll but you’ll probably like it.