Male Bonding: Nothing Hurts

Male Bonding: Nothing Hurts

It’s hard not to gravitate toward "Worse To Come," the final track of Male Bonding's debut, Nothing Hurts. In the song, the band’s former tourmates and kindred spirits, Vivian Girls, harmonize angelically behind frontman John Arthur Webb. It’s a slab of shimmering, scuffed, acoustic punk that calls to mind the boy-girl verve of The Vaselines—that is, before it dissolves into a soup of shoegaze-y glory. But it’s not the only dynamic moment on the brisk, buzzing disc. Peel back the skin of distortion that sheathes the rest of the songs and there's a range of gleeful noises circulating, from the grunge thud of “Weird Feelings”—a direct descendent of Nirvana’s “Sliver”—to the zero-gravity jangle of “Franklin.” In that sense, Nothing Hurts is a small step forward for the typically single-note noise-pop revival, although the album is considerably dampened by Webb’s vocals; deadpan and drab, his voice has far too much carefully crafted slack to it, not to mention a marked lack of hooks and conviction. Still, for an exercise in hero worship and racket-making, it’s a joy; but if “Worse To Come" winds up being a cheeky preview of what Male Bonding has in store for the future, that’ll be even better.

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