A little over a year ago Male Bonding became the first English band to sign to Sub Pop.
It was a big deal that, considering the trio’s penchant for grungey garage, and their vocalised love for No Age, made complete sense.
They traded Dalston for the States to record ‘Nothing Hurts’, following in the footsteps of friends Lovvers and seemingly taking one more step toward full Yankee metamorphosis.
They were Sub Pop’s English band who couldn’t be more American, or at
least that’s certainly how the haters saw it who’d spent 2009 moaning that Male Bondingliked Nirvana and pizza over Chas’n’Dave and whelks.
When ‘Nothing Hurts’ arrived though, any naysayer was swiftly silenced; not just by its shear exuberance but also by how English it remained.
On tracks like ‘Weird Feelings’ and the more aggressive ‘Paradise Vendors’
early Nirvana references were still a plenty but a standout track like ‘T.U.F.F.’ – an ADHD punk track,
spat out almost out of character for the band – had more in common with Blur’s brilliantly messy ‘Popscene’
than anything on ‘Bleach’. ‘All Things This Way’ reminded us of
the never-cool-but-never-bettered-in-thepogoing-world songs of Symposium, and singer John Arthur Webb, despite the temptation,
doesn’t strain out an Americantwang once. It’s probably unfair to pin the
playful, nuttiness of ‘Pumpkin’ (all squealing high-fretted riffs and cowbell knocks) on the band’s British heritage (Americans are fun too, y’know),
but then the fact that ‘Nothing Hurts’ is equal parts here/equal parts there is
ultimately booted aside by the strength of its thirteen songs.
When you’re jumping around to ‘Nothing Use To Hurt’ you have no time to
compare its opening wall of static to those of No Age. Such matters are way too trivial.
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