Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop)

A rattling, breakneck punk record but with no shortage of melody

Released May 27th, 2010 via Sub Pop / By Simon Harper
Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop) London scuzz-punk combo Male Bonding first shot to attention with the nascent anthem ‘Year’s Not Long’, one side of a split seven-inch (featuring recent Woodsist signings Eat Skull on the other side) released on London-based indie label Tough Love. With the band now signed to Sub Pop, that song features as the opening track on their thrilling debut album.

The trio race through each song on what is a rattling, breakneck punk record but with no shortage of melody – while they crank up the riffs and propel each spiky detour via pummeling drums and insouciant bass, there are also strong nods to echo-driven surf (seemingly a prerequisite for many of the most exciting members of this new wave of lo-fi bands) combined with noise-pop fervour and grunge-era power.

Alternating between slashing and jangly guitar riffs, it would be very easy for Male Bonding to make an album where every song sounded similar. It’s worthy of praise that they manage to pack so much variety into less than half an hour of vacuum-packed punk-pop nuggets, delivered with ebullience and the product of a scuffed outlook which eases the listener in throughout the record’s duration.

From the twanging lead melody of ‘Weird Feelings’ to the serrated distortion which underpins ‘Nothing Used to Hurt’, there’s a vibrant and youthful intensity at the heart of each of these riotous tracks, while the lurching ‘Paradise Vendors’ is a beatific journey through fuzzed-up new wave. Designed to be played loud, it’s a hook-filled jaunt which embodies the three-piece’s knack for writing grimy yet glorious pop songs.

Consequently, closing track ‘Worst to Come’ comes as a real gear-shift. With backing vocals deftly provided by fellow noise explorers – and former tour partners - Vivian Girls. A scratched, reverb-laden acoustic number, the female trio add soaring harmonies to what ostensibly sounds like a dreamy, shoegaze-fuelled ode. It’s arguably the stand-out track here, and reclaims the trio’s lo-fi beginnings.

A compelling debut, it remains to be seen where Male Bonding go from here, but Nothing Hurts is a thrilling start. Expect them to go far and, much like their songs, for them to get there very quickly indeed.