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MALE BONDING
Nothing Hurts
Sub Pop
Format: CD / LP / MP3
Release Date: May 11, 2010
By Nick Dean February 15, 2011

On the heels of Skyscraper‘s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked. This is one of those.

My daily commute’s not much, but it’s enough to hear half the tracks on Male Bonding’s Sub Pop debut. Of the few albums stashed on my phone, Male Bonding’s Nothing Hurts has been the inevitable choice for months now. The noise-laden pop punk is a psych-up for the day. The songs are short, energetic, and catchy. What keeps me listening, though, is the diversity of trio’s music. Don’t get me wrong, Male Bonding aren’t genre-hopping masters. Far from it. They pretty much do one thing: fast-paced punk rock with a bit of No Age’s experimental, fuzzy bent and Abe Vigoda’s tropicalia-leanings. But they just happen to do it really, really well.

It’s the little things clinching it for me, like how the guitar drops out and builds back up alongside the drums on “Franklin.” Or the Woody Woodpecker cowbell on “T.U.F.F.” But as limiting as a guitar, bass, and drums combo could be in the hands of some, Male Bonding’s songs on Nothing Hurts are all clearly distinct from each other. This one’s a little more sped-up. That one’s a little more slowed-down. This is the one with the driving bass riff. That’s the one with the line, “All this won’t last forever.” The feat brings to mind former Welsh neighbors Mclusky, though there’s a good bit of difference between the two groups.

If you’re listening only to the album’s pace, Nothing Hurts is going to feel like a herky-jerky race from beginning to end. For those interested, though, Male Bonding’s music can prove a more complicated listen. So many times I find myself tapping along to the beat and humming lyrics I don’t actually know. All the while my subconscious shifts focus from crashing cymbals on one track to guitar feedback’s ability to create space on the next. The album’s been my inevitable choice for months now, as I said earlier. After only a few spins, Nothing Hurts sounds familiar mainly due to its songs being simple enough to  remember and complex enough to warrant repeat listens.

Visit: Male Bonding | Sub Pop
Purchase: Insound | eMusic