Male Bonding

Nothing Hurts

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Despite, or perhaps because of, the macho implications of the band's name, Male Bonding display a unique mix of vulnerability and toughness on their debut album, Nothing Hurts. The band has played with Fucked Up and the Vivian Girls (who sing on the closing track, "Worse to Come"), and it's easy to hear the connection they have with both of those groups. Male Bonding play punk-pop in the purest sense of the term; they take tooth-rottingly sweet melodies and play them as fast and loud as they can. "Year's Not Long" begins Nothing Hurts with a perfect example of the way the band hits home a bittersweet tune with pummeling energy, but the rest of the album shows there's more to their music than that. A dream pop haze emerges on "All Things This Way"'s choruses, though Male Bonding's scrappy, rambunctious take on the style recalls Eric's Trip more than My Bloody Valentine. Indeed, early-'90s indie casts a long shadow over Nothing Hurts; you can hear shades of Teenage Fanclub's devotion to melodies and feedback and even Incesticide-era Nirvana on songs like "Crooked Scene" and "Paradise Vendors." But though Male Bonding spend most of the album serving up an equal mix of melody and noise, they don't forget to represent both ends of the spectrum as well. "T.U.F.F." and "Pirate Key" show off the band's harder, more angular side, while "Franklin" and "Worse to Come" show that Male Bonding aren't afraid to be completely sensitive every now and then. Nothing Hurts is a strong debut, even when it's gentle.

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