Males may open with the bubbling water of “Bong Life,” but ironically enough, it dispatches the stoned haze of the Intelligence's previous album Fake Surfers with a few well-placed power chords. Lars Finberg and company keep finding new ways of being inscrutable and unpredictable, and at first it seems like they’ll do it on Males by being remarkably straightforward, a sharp about-face from not just Fake Surfers but the band’s other 2009 album, the considerably messier Crepuscule with Pacman. The album’s first half chugs along with songs like “Tuned to Puke” and “Sailor Itch,” both of which show that no matter how oddball the Intelligence gets, their garage-punk foundations are solid. However, even on these songs the guitars and keyboards veer off on tangents, keeping the band firmly on the strange side. “White Corvette” and “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like” -- which sounds like Devo playing a song written by a valley girl -- offer plenty of new wave thrills, underscoring that the weirder Finberg is, the better. Things get downright surreal on “Mom or a Parking Lot,” which dips into jazz so hallucinatory you can practically see the pink elephants dancing around; with lyrics like “my beard has become the lawn,” it’s one of the strangest things the Intelligence has laid down since Deuteronomy's “Block of Ice.” “The Beetles” adorns its acoustic strumming with a solo so wobbly it sounds like the guitar is melting, Dali-style. Finberg's storytelling is the music’s equal, especially on “Estate Sales,” a clear-eyed and cranky meditation on solitude, consumption and death, and “Chateau Bandit,” in which he and the rest of the band kidnap a house and hold it for ransom. Yet the strangest thing about Males may be that Finberg recorded the album with his touring band (which includes members of like minded groups such as Eat Skull), but it’s one of the cleanest-sounding things the Intelligence has ever done. It doesn’t quite reach Deuteronomy’s brilliance, but it’s still a treat to figure out what the band is going to do next on Males.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares