Male Bonding: Nothing Hurts

Categories: Nothing Not New
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Artist: Male Bonding
Title: Nothing Hurts
Release date: May 11
Label: Sub Pop

Remember all the buzz about Wavves last year? I thought they were just okay. Hopefully, their next record (slated for release this year) will be better. In the meantime, I'll be listening to the new record by Male Bonding, which takes the sing-a-pop-melody-and-triple-wrap-it-in-fuzz formula to a high level.

That Wavves knucklehead had better be on the top of his game next time out if he wants outdo this skinny and scruffy trio of British lads.

This record (13 songs in 29 minutes -- love it) blasts out of the gate with "Year's Not Long, which is sort of a whip-cracking take on Hüsker Dü's "New Day Rising." From there, it's one two-minute blast of fuzzy guitar riffs and hard-driving drums after another. What differentiates Male Bonding, though, from run-of-the-mill pound-you-over-the-head punk is what's going on atop of all the racket. 

The dreamy, echo-chamber vocals, which make the singer sound detached from the clamor being whipped up behind him, create an effect such that the snarling music seems less aggressive. I'm sure in a life situation, the conceit wouldn't work as well, but on this disc, they got it right. I suppose the one problem -- one that would no doubt turn many listeners off -- is as decent a melody as these guys manage to sing, you can't really understand the heavily reverbed vocals. 

I get the sense that this is one of those bands that will have a steep trajectory, and that they had to get the punk of their system with Nothing Hurts. Next time out, I can envision a more focused, more measured approach to their unhinged brand of pop. Hopefully, amid the inevitably slower tempos and clearer vocals, the unrefined energy and charm will remain intact.

Best song: "Weird Feelings," which twists the guitar melody from "Please Please Me" and and Nirvana-esque riffing into one cool-sounding song.
Rotation: Medium-heavy
Deja Vu: Early Nirvana meets Surfer Blood
I'd rather listen to: 100 Flowers' 100 Years of Pulchitrude
Grade: B

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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