Review Summary: London trio steeped equally in lo-fi, grunge and C86 pop come out the gates swinging...or well, at least making a shit ton of noise.
Apparently London has a bustling lo-fi community. Not like the buzzy *** gazers of LA or NYC’s fuzz punkers -- these dudes all ***ing live, play and work together. Names like Graffiti Island and PENS may sound foreign to some, but in their home of Dalston they’ve busily been making names for themselves and catching some ears in the process. Enter guitar-bass-drum trio Male Bonding, up to their ears in DIY ethic, fast, immediate hooks and mountains of reverb; a concrete representation of that specific buzz sound rising from the English streets. Furthermore the exact reason why you should care about these bands in the first place. The music is reminiscent of their American counter-parts (No Age, Vivian Girls, A Place To Bury Strangers), but Male Bonding tend to smooth their songs out with Post-Punk pomp or dreamy distortion as opposed to just adding more skuzz. And while they’re distinctly similar to the likes of Sonic Youth and Joy Division, its their penchant for mixing in K Records shimmering buzz and C86 style pop that makes all the tracks on Nothing Hurts
such a joy to come back to.
While there could be some who view the album’s 25 minute runtime as a drawback, coupled with some jaded outcries of this would make a better EP!
Sure, you could say that, or you could take Nothing Hurts
as it presents itself: a collection of 13 tightly-knit, poppy-punk songs that struggle to hit the 3 minute mark before they implode upon themselves. Thankfully nothing really ever reaches that 180 second threshold, and the tracks on Nothing Hurts
never overstay their welcome. Grungy cuts like “All Things This Way” and “Your Contact,” seem to revel in their hook-heavy yet minute runtimes. The classic punk aesthetic of why do in 5 minutes what you can do in 1,
is in full swing with Male Bonding, and Nothing Hurts
is that much better for it.
Unlike a lot of their fuzzy peers, they are actually able to stuff more in the song’s short life-spans than you figure would be plausible. Rather than acting indier than thou
while in the recording process, they seem to have be granted their high-horse by virtue of the fact that their music fit’s the persona; as though we were lumping the DIY onto them. Which is somewhat of a hard card to play, but Male Bonding are ready for the hordes of jaded indie-fied masses(hah!) by seemingly stripping themselves of all their pretension. Where as the likes of Vivan Girls, No Age and Times New Viking, who would garner comparisons to these guys, do so because they all seem to really really
love that lo-fi buzz. Male Bonding use the aesthetic as opposed to abusing it. Comparatively, they would have more in common with no-fi stalwarts like Sonic Youth and Eric’s Trip, though certainly more pop oriented than both of those bands. Their obvious love of classic Post-Punk (“Nothing Used To Hurt” & “Your Contact” being standouts) and Twee (“Franklin”) give them a bit of a leg up though. Their melodies pop and their choruses drag you back in, the lo-fi aspect plays off as a positive, as opposed to skuzzing up the whole album.
It also helps that bassist Kevin Hendrick (who used to speed up his records as kid) and guitarist John Arthur Webb can harmonize. Granted their 2-minute blasts down Lo-Fi Avenue may not leave too much in the way of time
, but tell that to album stand outs “Crooked Scene,” “Nothing Remains” and “Nothing Used to Hurt.” The later in which the band finds time to successfully balance the fuzz with their joint melodies and
a minute long distorted intro -- all under 3 minutes. It is just that ability to cram so much into so little that grants Male Bonding such success with Nothing Hurts
. It may just be 20 or so minutes long, and the songs may kind of run together if you let them but their throw in the kitchen sink while pissing into the wind tendency with recording gives their debut LP a sense of purpose. If only to allow for a debauched drunken explosion, or a calling card for friends (see the excellent Viv Girls choral cameo on closer “Worse To Come,”) Nothing Hurts
still reads as a reinvigorated chapter in the great Cannon of Lo-Fi. Regardless of how true that assertion may be, at least Nothing Hurts
feels that way, which is half the battle anyways. Using a self-conscious recording process this trio of Londoners present an earnest outburst of youth and a free-wheeling spirit that is nothing less than refreshing. Now lets see if they can do it again.