When Kurt Cobain listed punk as a musical influence for Nirvana, this is perhaps the sort of punk he had in mind. The musical urgency present in Male Bonding’s music is, in fact, not quite unlike that of the one-time Sub Pop artist. Yet whereas Cobain wore his emotions on his sleeve and could tap into a primal ferocity at any given moment, the vocal delivery by lead singer and guitarist John Arthur Webb is one that opts mostly for harmony and constraint. This style and ability renders a whole new dynamic to the band, as any listener of their previous record would attest to. The absence of incoherent screaming or shrill pleading places the trio more in line with the classic punk of the ‘70s and ‘80s than with their contemporaries, evoking that same sort of snarky innocence in the vocal delivery.
Throughout each of the twelve propulsive tracks on the record, the band is cognizant of melody at all times, even when the music slips into almost breakneck speed. This overarching, constant sense of melody amidst chaos recalls the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and the Buzzcocks. The pummeling, furious pace of the rhythm section, mixed with the melodious lines of the lead guitar and vocals present a striking contrast and make for an intriguing element to the music, one that a band of lesser talent would not be able to ascertain.
Endless Now was partially written on the road, but was fully recorded in a 19th century converted church in Woodstock, New York. Interestingly enough, the album was recorded in the same place as Dinosaur Jr.’s Where You Been and produced by one John Agnello, known for his work with that band as well. This is ironic and feels more than coincidental considering the striking similarities between the two bands.
With the care placed in the recording process and the addition of a heavyweight producer, the band was placed in an environment that both promoted and stimulated progression, allowing them to take slight chances with their sound. This progress will by no means alienate fans of Hurt, but it does succeed in distinguishing itself from the band’s previous release. Drummer Robin Silas Christian, when describing the recording process, admits that the trio “used the studio as a tool much more” for this album. Yet there are no drastic musical discrepancies between their two LPs, save for the foray into full-on acoustic balladry with “The Saddle.” Webb’s voice holds its own without an assault of sound to back it, and the song suggests that the band is quite capable of expanding its arsenal if it chooses to do so. The lyricism still focuses on failing relationships and scorned love, approaching these subjects with a numbness and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm indicative of classic punk rock.
Like its predecessor, Endless Now does not overstay its welcome, astutely favoring brevity over length. During these brief thirty minutes, Male Bonding frenetically pummels away as if racing against the listener’s attention span. The trio not only keeps its audience interested, but also succeeds in reaffirming the talent and style shown on last year’s Nothing Hurts. In essence, Male Bonding provides much of the same on its most recent addition, Endless Now. But with their unique knack for incorporating melody while still maintaining the urgency, energy and punk nature of their music, more of the same is just fine.