September 8, 2011

Album Review: Male Bonding's Endless Now

The writing has been on the wall since last year and now it can be confirmed: 2011 is the year that lo-fi officially died -- again. The trend showed signs of deteriorating health and went into a coma last year when releases by former cross-bearers No Age and Wavves dabbled with higher quality production, and by the sounds of recent outputs from a diverse spread such as GIRLS, Black Lips and Times New Viking, it doesn't look like that was by accident. The end results have varied stylistically for those willing to take the hi-fi plunge, but perhaps none have been more fruitful than what it's doing for UK trio, Male Bonding. Their debut, Nothing Hurts -- while solid enough to consider them one of the best breakthrough acts of 2010 -- had the unfortunate timing of being disposed onto the world just when everyone started getting sick of the fuzzy, fragmented production shtick.

Not willing to miss the boat this time around, Male Bonding strikes while the iron is still hot on their sophomore follow-up, Endless Now. As a whole, it's a glossy explosion of melody that finds an odd balance between '90s power pop and a healthy on-the-nose helping of blink-182-esque punk. Amid this collision of catchy hooks and simplistic chord progressions however, there's a deeper personal touch behind the lyrics spouting out of John Arthur Webb and Kevin Hendrick's mouths than on their debut's carefree choruses. Album opener "Tame the Sun" deals with the subject of accepting a situation for what it is and moving on while many others confront the biting reality of deteriorating romances with such upbeat zest that you'd assume all is well in the hearts of these three English lads if not for the words accompanying their sugary anthems ("Carrying," "Seems to Notice Now" and "Before Its Gone.")

If there's one obvious downfall to Endless Now, it's that the tempo of each track becomes repetitive as the album plays out (in fact, it intentionally opens and closes with the same riff,) making for some moments where you question if you've accidentally hit the "repeat" button on your iPod. The six-minute-plus long lead single "Bones" and the stripped naked track, "The Saddle" are two of Endless Now's uniquer moments which break up the monotony of the others and may leave you wishing there were more diversions along the way. Fortunately, Male Bonding have proven themselves as masters of crafting the near-perfect power pop punk song here, making Endless Now's lack of varied song structures forgivable and the album a timeless listen in the grand scheme of it all.

Male Bonding's Endless Now is available now on Sup Pop Records.

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