WHEN IT COMES TO must-own musical box sets, One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost and Found is of equal importance to Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. At least it is for those who really like songs about going steady. On the 120 songs in this Spector-free collection (you'll have to get Back to Mono for your Wall of Sound fix), there is an overriding sense of doom. Granted, on the surface these songs sparkle with a carefree '60s effervescence, but for every chorus of love gone right, there are tales of drag-race deaths (the number-one cause of teenage mortality, according to '60s pop songs), unwanted pregnancies, gender inequities, and multiple ditties about how the rain can hide a woman's tears. These are happy songs assembled on a foundation of suffering.
Hunx and His Punx can probably relate. The addictive garage outfit fronted by Hunx (Seth Bogart) have created their finest work in a brief yet prolific run. Too Young to Be in Love—released via the best Sub Pop imprint named after a Thermals song, Hardly Art—is a delectable collection of vintage pop songs with just enough punk-rock tarnish to make them feel like more than an exercise in vacant nostalgia. With a songbook seemingly scavenged from the Brill Building dumpster, Hunx and his newfound backing band (Michelle Santamaria, Erin Emslie, Amy Blaustein, and Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams, who plays a major role with both her voice and her pen) effortlessly stitch addictive vocal hooks to every song while leaving no '60s pop music topic untouched. From makeout spots ("Lovers Lane"), to teenage malaise ("The Curse of Being Young"), to handsome rebels named Johnny that you should probably keep away from ("Keep Away from Johnny"), Hunx and His Punx are not treading on unfamiliar soil here.
Yet the saving grace of Too Young to Be in Love is Bogart's sexualized, campy persona, which can be simplified as one part Joey Ramone and one part John Waters. It's a bit of a departure from Gay Singles (last year's accurately titled compilation of 7-inches), which was a bit less innocent than its successor—more handjobs than hand holding—and ultimately less focused. Too Young works perfectly with Hunx as the coy ringleader and Shaw as his female companion, belting out the notes that he could never quite hit.
Oddly enough, Bogart's indoctrination to this sound came via a Whoopi Goldberg film. "I remember watching Sister Act and they had a lot of girl-group songs that were, like, religious versions," says the unabashed singer, who quickly adds, "I like really faggy music as well." In addition to his role as Hunx, Bogart might be best known for fronting sex-positive party outfit Gravy Train!!!!, or for his penis being used as a microphone in Girls' memorable "Lust for Life" video. Perhaps both.
For every song on Too Young to Be in Love that innocently coos "Can We Get Together?" there are numbers like "Blow Me Away," which is—despite its suggestive title—about Bogart's father taking his own life. Much like the groundwork laid by so many now-forgotten girl-group acts of yore, there is a delicate balance here between happy pop hooks and unavoidable pain. Or as Bogart explains it, "It's bubblegum sounding, but kind of morbid."