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.
London's Male Bonding were one of the first bands to usher in the inevitable 90s revival of the 2010s, when their debut Nothing Hurts, appropriately released on Sub Pop, gained lots of plaudits and comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, and Guided By Voices in the blogosphere. Just a year later, with 90s revival now a full blown tidal wave, the band is releasing their follow-up Endless Now. With the help of ubiquitous producer John Agnello, Endless Now was recorded in the same abandoned church-turned studio in Woodstock, NY that housed some of the more iconic recordings by The B-52s, Dinosuar Jr, and Thurston Moore. Male Bonding will be touring the U.S. in late summer/early fall to support Endless Now, though in distinctly non-90s fashion, the album was leaked on the Internet 2 months before its scheduled release.