Review : Male Bonding - Endless Now
PitchforkFrom an early age, boys are taught to avoid wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The more you open yourself up, the greater the chance that you'll get yourself hurt. Male Bonding like to explore the tension between TMI and musical aggression. They kick up dust and make a lot of noise but then write of pain, jealousy, depression, and loss. The title of their fine Sub Pop debut, Nothing Hurts, was a succinct summary of their contradictions.
It took some time to get the whole picture on Nothing Hurts-- for one, you had to get past the heavy British accents (to say nothing of the album's trashcan production values). The band's songwriter, John Arthur Webb, and co-singer/bassist Kevin Hendrick had problems with speaking up, too, obscuring some of their scattered thoughts. Some have cited this unintelligibility as a telltale sign of Male Bonding's lack of personality; while that's an understandable conclusion to reach, their distance ultimately comes across as a self-defense mechanism-- emotional armor, if you will.
Considering the circumstances that surround Male Bonding's second album, Endless Now, you'd assume the stage for this self-hatred and confusion would be a little more well-lit. The record was produced by 1990s-throwback-indie producer du jour John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) and recorded in Woodstock, New York's Dreamland Recording Studio, a converted 19th-century church. The results are (slightly) more polished, with more room for the band's bashing guitars to stretch their legs. As a songwriter, though, Webb hasn't changed-- if anything, the new sonic spread just provides more hiding places, the dense thickets of melodic hum that drive "Can't Dream" and early single "Bones" functioning as curtains to sing behind. His cloudy outlook is still noticeable-- despite its title, "Tame the Sun" is about not being able to tame the sun-- but it takes some digging through the sheets of noise in "Bones" to unearth its futile core: "Be careful what you dream about/ There's not always ways out."
Lest you think Endless Now sounds like one big pity party, it's not. Nothing Hurts had a big, beating pop heart underneath its scrapes and bruises, and here the hooks are plentiful, to the point where touring guitarist Nathan Hewitt was enlisted to handle the overflow of sweet, sticky stuff. The phrase "pop-punk" has been thrown around with these guys, and with good reason (besides those Rivers Cuomo recording sessions, that is); if you took the swaying chorus on "Seems to Notice Now" and plunked it in the middle of a pre-misery-and-maturity Blink-182 album, I'm not sure how many would know the difference. A possibly more apt comparison would be Thirteen-era Teenage Fanclub or even vintage Fountains of Wayne in terms of sparkly power-pop goodness, with just a little grit (fittingly, the band's been known to do a cover of FoW's "Radiation Vibe" every now and then)....full text
GuardianLondon-based trio Male Bonding deservedly won plaudits for their tuneful and uptempo punk on last year's debut, Nothing Hurts, but failed to translate that acclaim into significant sales. Their second album once again combines the muscularity of 80s post-hardcore types Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr with the dynamics of breezily sunny three-minute pop songs, this time to even better effect. Opener "Tame the Sun" sets the tone, racing by in a blur as harmonies and infectiously melodic hooks tumble over one another, while "Carrying" and the six-minute "Bones" raise the bar even higher. Highly recommended....full text
MusicomhEndless Now sees east London trio Male Bonding return with their second album for the esteemed Sub Pop label. Their relationship with Sub Pop continues to be a natural and harmonious affair and provides confirmation that their sound has not undergone any radical change from that showcased on their debut album Nothing Hurts. Amongst the buzzing guitars however it is possible to detect small signs of improvement and fine-tuning, whilst it also boasts a greater melodic strength than its predecessor.
On the surface there is not a great deal to distinguish each track, an admission that may initially be a cause for concern. Their grungy American guitar sound is still indebted to bands such as Sebadoh, Hüsker Dü and The Descendents, although here it has been translated into a more overtly energised form of power pop that pushes them closer to bands such as Weezer. Essentially, what we get is a rapid succession of (mostly) sub-three minute blasts of exuberant, fuzzy guitars. It is all over in a pleasingly concise 37 minutes.
Tame The Sun is a strong candidate for an opening single, all jolts of guitar and powerful drum patterns, and is an accurate précis of what is to follow. Seems To Notice Now is another early hook-laden highlight, a strong melody residing under the barrage of guitars. Bones offers the first sign of something slightly different, tight percussion and driving guitars soon abetted by some dreamy, shoegazey vocals, which are at times reminiscent of early Ride. Indeed, a hazy exterior sheen is cast over much of Endless Now.
Elsewhere, a similar high standard prevails. Before Itís Gone features frontman John Arthur Webb delivering his disaffected vocals with a mild sneer while Whatís That Scene sees their DIY ethic allied to some soaring melodies. Likewise, Channelling Your Fears has more choppy riffs set against a flurry of drumming and Mysteries Complete manages to be simultaneously both buoyant and lurching. Combined, they point to an improbable, nascent revival of early 1990s indie rock. The Saddle is unique in that both the pace and volume noticeably drop. While it shows a different facet to their sound, it equally proves this is not where the bandís real strength lies....full text
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