Male Bonding are a crime scene. They are a car crash. They are a weapon of mass destruction. They are two strangers meeting in the bathroom for a quickie. They are two hands in the middle of a high five. Male Bonding are, in essence, two elements colliding for a brief moment, a transfer of energy, and a resulting blowback before everything goes calm again. You wake up on the ground in a daze before you can figure out what hit you. And despite all this talk of forceful destruction, this band will thankfully only smack away your inhibitions and expectations. But it’s the manner in which they do it, with speedy punk-tinged lo-fi jams that leaves you feeling like you were violated, but in a good way. Male Bonding’s Sub Pop debut “Nothing Hurts” is 13 tracks that blow by in 30 minutes, but the damage done in that short amount of time will leave you reeling for days afterwards.
Husker Du and Nirvana are two great 90’s bands that Male Bonding have clearly been influenced by, because the songs on “Nothing Hurts” bears all their familiar markers. There’s a very distinctive punk rock ethos in these songs, mostly in the way each song powers straight through from start to finish in under 3 minutes without ever stopping to take a breath. To put it another way, nothing is wasted or lost in these songs, it’s all pure rock and hooks packed to the gills and arranged for maximum efficiency. The guitars are noisy and fierce, while the vocals are often just clear enough to make out what’s being said and not much more. If you listen carefully at the beginnings and ends of each song, you can hear the tape hiss that goes along with your classic lo-fi production. There’s plenty of echoes and feedback noise and roughshod mixes to go around, and whether it was done on purpose or out of sheer affordability, it works to great effect.
Lyrically speaking, though you can make out most of what singer John Arthur Webb is saying, not a whole lot of it matters outside of maybe the choruses. It’s all part of the greater picture in each individual song, and often they’re flying by so fast you’ll have enough time to get caught on the hook and taken for a quick ride before hitting the brick wall and starting all over again with the next track. Above all else, “Nothing Hurts” is one hell of a fun album to listen to, and if you’re limber enough, it may make you want to go skateboarding afterwards. This is music the youth of today should be obsessing over because it’s all A.D.D. and in your face. This is music for the scrappers, those in danger of being left behind but who are willing to fight for what they feel is theirs. This is music for the angry and aggressive people who need an outlet for all that pent up frustration. This is music for people who can fully appreciate rock-and-roll in its most tattered and beat-up form. In other words, this is one of the tightest, smartest and most aggressive records so far this year. Though it doesn’t exactly venture into new territory, it covers the old territory extraordinarily well. That’s about all you can ask from Male Bonding, who have turned in one of the most entertaining and energetic albums so far this year.