The Tripwire: On Male Bonding, Versatility and Escaping Lo-Fi Stigmas

Male Bonding has always seemed to me a band that suffered from some unfortunate categorization. Don't get me wrong. A lot of people have had a lot of very positive things to say about the London trio, and rightfully so. Their album Nothing Hurts was a powerhouse that hit like a ton of bricks. But it also came out during a moment in which lo-fi has become a bad word. Or if bad sounds too strong, surely boring doesn't. Male Bonding doesn't share much more than fuzz and Dinosaur Jr. posters with these bands, and would be nearly impossible to take a nap to. But they still got occasionally lumped into the lo-fi bin anyway.

In reality, Nothing Hurts felt like it contained as many punk aesthetics as murky ones. Each of its thirteen tracks clocks in at an economical three minutes or less. And this makes sense, as Male Bonding play these songs like absolute sprints. Pop savants that they are, they impressively manage to pack several heavy hooks into most of those races. Yet the songs are still packed with enough dizziness to, if not drown out the lyrics, at least put them on an entirely separate plane. You can take them in, or just go along for the ride.

This hybrid of sub-genres makes a great deal of sense once you know that the three dudes who make up Male Bonding met at a record store, where they all worked. They found a niche within it, combining highlights of several groups they liked and debating their merits. Maybe they could have stuck around that niche and turned out another album of jams to drink beers in basements to. But it appears the guys' interests vary too widely for that.

The first song the band released from their upcoming Endless Now fairly merits use of the word epic. New track “Bones” still feels like a race, but one that happens to be more than six minutes long. The sound doesn’t feel cleaner exactly, but the lyrics sneak through a bit more. Bold proclamations are made and guitars are layered. It’s both messy and pretty all at once.

If “Bones” stayed largely within the band’s wheelhouse with some minor adjustments, “Tame The Sun” departs from it entirely. It is the poppiest song the band has released, with a distinctly ‘90s rock vibe that's fitting given its young, loving and vulnerable tone.

Singer John Arthur Webb talked to SPIN about the emotional connection the band shares with the '90s, noting he used to mop floors for money that he saved to buy Nirvana and Blur records. Maybe Male Bonding's change of direction will land them places in '90s revivalism features. That spot might not fit them any better than their lo-fi tag, but it's nice to see they can excel pretty much wherever they're lumped in.

The Tripwire: On Male Bonding, Versatility and Escaping Lo-Fi Stigmas