Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Male Bonding Makes Endless Now

Male BondingNot everyone is going to love Endless Now from Male Bonding, the latter day lo-fi rockers who helped create a sound revival of sorts in London. The sophomore album replaces some of their scrappiness with a smoothness that almost sounds like a debut from someone else. And that's okay.

Male Bonding told Pitchfork that they wanted to break out of the lo-fi pigeonhole. They want a little more freedom, which will require listeners to have an open mind. It's bigger, cleaner, and crisper. It sounds great, even if it isn't as restless.

Endless Now doesn't lose confusion in the polish.

Settling into a sound that doesn't qualify it as pop-punk requires a certain sense of bravery by the band. John Arthur Webb (guitar and vocals), Kevin Hendrick (bass and vocals), Robin Silas Christian (drums) and guest Nathan Hewitt (guitar) all know it. All bands lose a few fans with a significant change up. But here, you have to have a tin ear not to hear the lurking fierceness.

It has only been a year since the band (founded in 2008) released their debut album, Nothing Hurts. And it's amazing that they ever got it off the ground, given their tightly packed tour schedule last year. They wrote almost everything on the road, and some of those in the know will recognize those that Webb and company road tested.

At the same time, it's safe to assume the road-tested fare might hit differently when they are not bookended by Nothing Hurts tracks. You tell me.

What's The Scene is one of several essential tracks from the album. If it doesn't capture any interest after a listen or two, then you won't find the album as infectious as it ought to be. It's awash with pure noise pop, and a nice grungy center and bittersweet song reminding someone that they aren't all that.

Add Mysteries Compete and Before It's Gone to the mix. Both tracks were initial picks before committing to review the album. Like many of the tracks, both songs bring Webb into the forefront, dreamy vocals against the frantic pace of guitars and sticks.

Channeling Your Fears is also worth play time, with its conflicting lyrical and instrumental arrangements that remind you these guys seldom write love songs. Surprisingly, I can't say the same for the opener Tame The Sun. It's one of a few tracks that lay there like the fortunately short song The Saddle and not-short enough Dig You Out.

Back on the plus, expect to hear plenty about Bones and Carryings. Bones because it's a great long play song that never gets tired. Carrying because it's one of the songs Webb has singled out. He wrote it on a plane back to London, finishing it as soon as he hit the hotel room.

That's not where they were recorded, of course. The sophomore album was recorded at Dreamland Recording Studio in Woodstock, NY, and produced by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore, Dinosaur Jr.). It was mixed at Headgear Recording.

Male Bonding Makes Endless Now Timeless At 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

More often than not, I have reservations any time I hear that a band wants to strive for a cleaner sound. But Male Bonding makes Endless Now work on its own terms. Without the grit, there seems to be room for more guitars and vocals, along with piano in parts. It's a solid 36 minutes that takes the band several steps forward without losing some of their roots. Not bad for a band that put out their own record and had SubPop approach them for repress in America.

Endless Now by Male Bonding is available on iTunes. A vinyl release can be found at Barnes & Noble. Endless Now can also be download from Amazon.
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