[Sub Pop; 2010]

Bands are often immediately dismissed for sounding similar to their predecessors. Their work is just a rehash of songs we’ve known—and potentially loved—for years. And thus, Male Bonding has confounded me. Part of me wants to me wants to deride Nothing Hurts for being merely a rehash of Nirvana, Dino Jr., and the like; but I just can’t do it. The songs are too good, the riffs are too heavy, and the hooks are too catchy for me to expound at length on the lack of originality on this album. I mean, it would be all too easy to accuse them of merely capitalizing on the ever expanding lo-fi trend and retreading their peers’ catalogs, but I can’t get myself to do it.

Whether it’s the Vivian Girls-style pop of lead single “Year’s Not Long” or the Cobain aping on “Weird Feelings” the above motif holds through. It’s derivative music that’s just too good to ignore. It’s not like those bands have cornered the markets on power chords, fast tempos and mid level sound quality. Some of these songs just need to be heard, despite their obvious touchstones. “Year’s Not Long,” in particular, deserves the heap of blog praise lobbed at it. It’s just a perfect garage-pop song. Nothing else needs to be said. Listen to it.

Male Bonding’s early demos showed so much promise. I was giddy at the news of a full album, and while the great songs are great, the music as a whole seems to have lost some of its early edge. Nothing Hurts is more sonically palatable, sure, in production respects, but losing that no-fi aesthetic from their earliest material has hurt their overall vibe. We lose out on the tape squelches and Abe Vigoda atonality of “Full Bonding” and are instead presented with straight ahead garage pop. Nobody was making music like their early material, ’90s indie funneled through the late 2000s trend of non-production, but with this effort they’ve waded into the much tread region between low fidelity and mainstream sound populated by your Best Coasts and your Dum Dum Girls and your Jay Reatards. It’s not a major gripe, and it’s not like I can control the direction a band decides to go, but their earlier stuff was just better.

Simply put, “Nothing Use to Hurt” is great, “Your Contact” is pretty great despite its brevity, and “Year’s Not Long” is one of my favorites of the year so far, but as a whole I can’t see myself listening to Nothing Hurts, in order, over and over again. It’s a pretty enjoyable album, but it’s just begging to be sampled one track at a time, every once in a while.

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