Male Bonding

    Endless Now

    7.5

    For all of the acclaim that London’s Male Bonding got for their 2010 debut Nothing Hurts, it was hard to ignore that they were treading some very well-worn paths. Their countrymen Yuck got a lot of cheeky guff for sounding like indie rock’s greatest hits, but the same revivalist strains poked out of Male Bonding’s mix: Evan Dando vocals, Lou Barlow bass lines, Pavement hair cuts. We’ve been here before, and we know it works. 

    If it worked for you, it’s likely you’ll be fond of Endless Now. Male Bonding have stayed on course, but their sound remains as virile as it was. Veteran producer John Agnello has polished up the sound a little bit, but not too much. Opening song “Tame the Sun” functions as this year’s “Year’s Not Long,” a sleepy buzzsaw of unfocused emotion and blissful vibes. There’s a bunch of meaty material here for all your indoor and outdoor fist-pumping needs: the melodic whine of “Can’t Dream,” the droning rush of “Bones,” the procedural ascending that closes “What’s That Scene,” the ripping guitar solos sprinkled in just about every song. (Don’t tell anyone, but “Dig You” could be an mid-period Green Day song.) It’s high on hooks and speed and low on thematic variation–like the first record, you might say. It’s a testament to Male Bonding’s mastery of the pop punk form that they can load up twelve songs without feeling too repetitive.

    There’s enough extra instrumentation on the record–a cello here, a piano there–that you can tick off the usual checklist of garage-band-going-big angles that’s dominated blogosphere chatter about sophomore records from Wavves, Smith Westerns, Vivian Girls, etc. Male Bonding sound a bit cheerier than their peers, which makes this record more of a joy than you might expect from your typical group of flannel boys wearing guitars. It’s not quite boilerplate optimism–there’s a running current of distaste and fatalism underneath the sunny veneer. It’s a slightly adjusted perspective from the usual “life sucks” indie rock moping, but there’s not too much to say about the lyrics except that they’re there, and they sound nice buried beneath all the fuzz.

     

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