A. G. Cook, “Britpop”

Marking the end of the PC Music era, the three-disc album is a mystifying project that goes beyond Cook’s evolving aesthetic as it traverses the past, present, and future.

A. G. Cook, Britpop

Marking the end of the PC Music era, the three-disc album is a mystifying project that goes beyond Cook’s evolving aesthetic as it traverses the past, present, and future.

Words: Margaret Farrell

May 14, 2024

A. G. Cook

Instilling the past, present, and future into a single album is a daunting task. Yet such was the endeavor undertaken by PC Music guardian A. G. Cook’s on his latest album Britpop. The three-part project is a cheeky (in its album title alone) and curious odyssey where time collapses in on itself. Cook has always been forward-thinking, constantly embracing the unexpected. His plasticine sound, which all began a decade ago with his label and art collective’s polarizing rise, set the foundations for modern pop music: a tactile, hyper-saturated soundscape of oscillating rubberband beats, helium-pitched vocals, and a shaken-pop-can aura. 

Britpop is a mystifying project that goes beyond Cook’s evolving aesthetic as it traverses eras—it’s playing D&D in a friend’s basement, writing star-crossed love letters by hand that are being delivered on horseback, and raging in a basement where vodka and Celsius evaporate into the sticky air. Marking the end of the PC Music era, the 24-track project feels like a groundbreaking turn for one of music’s most innovative minds. It captures in amber a magical paradox where the familiar and the unexpected coalesce. If you don’t fully immerse yourself in the record, it can feel overwhelming—zooming out, Cook has created his own multiverse (even beyond his parody websites) that features nods to amulets, witches, and mysterious lairs with cultish trinkets.

The division between the album’s three sections feels obvious until it doesn’t, like staring at a word for so long it becomes alien. The past from disc one feels both on the nose (a Charli XCX vocal snippet that’s a melodic nod to the 2017 SOPHIE co-production “Lipgloss”) and more abstract, pulling from sonics that Cook is now synonymous with: pop-rock drum beats that feel both artificial and crystalline, chopped vocals that melt into the main melody, a rubbery sound that transforms from rudimentary playful to infinitely vast, as heard on album cuts “You Know Me” and “Heartache.” Everything feels like vast exploration rather than cathartic EDM drops or verse-chorus monotony. 

Momentarily an anti-album guy, Cook’s proto–hyper pop presence was solidified well before he released his debut 7G in 2020. Oddly enough, Cook’s voice felt established before his music actually highlighted his literal vocals. 7G’s “Silver” showcased that Cook could transform from sugar-high popstar into bonfire serenader on “Being Harsh,” like a magician doing a costume change. But Britpop’s second disc—the present—platforms Cook’s singer-songwriter avatar in a whole new glistening light. It’s the album’s core that feels lighthearted, like kids playing dress up. “Saving the world / Getting the girl,” he sings in a gentle coo on “Serenade.” His voice is close and, at times, iridescently manipulated. 

The seven tracks that follow play with that closeness, Cook’s voice an intimate symbol adorning itself with sentimental lyrics and guitar-hero grunge moments. When he chases after the romantic intangible (“I don’t know what you’re made of / But I know you can hear me”)  on “Greatly,” or scavenges for an existential answer in the seasons (“I’ll dig deeper and deeper / I'll take a symbol of summer and make it colder than winter”) on “Green Man,” it feels dumbfounding as to why Cook isn’t a a poster-worthy popstar. 

Britpop feels like a project that you can sit with for an eternity and its secrets will continue to silently unfold—and that’s a gift. It would be lazy to say that this album is beaming with nostalgia, even as its title teases that. Rather, Cook alchemizes a longing for something lost, something that doesn’t exist, and something we crave that’s on the horizon. These three discs in conversion with each other feel like they’re chasing after what the others lack. “What I love about music is the feeling that anything can happen,” Cook recently stated. “But you have to experience it in a linear way, right? It’s not like looking at a painting, or whatever. You really have to experience it. Music is an exercise in time, however you slice it.” 

Cook’s latest omnibus embraces this conundrum of pop music’s linear experience and the phantasm that time is in constant dialogue with itself. On Britpop, Cook surprises us with ancient worlds that feel new, earning our trust to take us further into its ether.