A long way from being household names still, even within the confines of modern indie-rock, London three-piece Male Bonding have nevertheless enjoyed a quicker journey up the ladder than most. Only extant since summer 2008, a programme of hectic gigging and more releases than most could hope to keep up with has led to them becoming a highly rare example of a British band signed by the iconic Seattle label Sub Pop. Nothing Hurts, their debut album, will probably not be a Shins-esque licence to print money for the label, but it's a minor triumph as a grab-bag of punky jams.
While they could scarcely be pigeonholed as a grunge revival revue, it's evident to the keen observer that Male Bonding are acutely aware of the legacy with which they've aligned themselves by signing to Sub Pop. The–really rather nice–packaging for Nothing Hurts includes a black and white poster of the band that looks like it might be a lost snap of Nirvana circa 1989. Their actual songs, while fuzz-coated and anti-commercial in their ramshackle delivery, tend to evoke youthful naiveté and carefree downtime rather than rage, gloom or desperation. A number of American guitar rock bands–Pavement, Superchunk and Sebadoh most prominently–issued records in the late 80s and early 90s without which Male Bonding effectively wouldn't exist.
Not that this zippy 29 minutes is all one-note nostalgia. Like the best bands from the contemporary UK and US scenes they lurk in–Nottingham's Lovvers, pals of theirs, or Portland's Eat Skull, with whom they shared a split single–they twist recognisable styles into fresh shapes. Partly this is done by dropping in outside influences: Pumpkin rattles along at the pace of classic American hardcore punk, yet is followed up by Worse to Come, a wigged-out folk-rock nugget strummed with clammy urgency. The gauzy glow of the prime-era shoegazing bands also looms large during several songs. Just as significant, however, is Male Bonding's ability to convey the impression that they are answerable to no-one, making precisely the music they want at this moment in time. --Noel Gardner
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Debut 2010 album! Scuzzy surf-grunge 'n' punk bubblegum outta the UK, for fans of Abe Vigoda and The Ramones.