Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The raggedy English trio Male Bonding kicked up some noise with its 2010 debut, Nothing Hurts. Sculpting sludge and retro-grunge into simple, grinning pop, the disc was a well-timed scrubdown of indie-rock excess—but it failed to fill the gaps in its racket with hooks worthy of that nervous energy. The follow-up, Endless Now, is the sound of Male Bonding growing into its shoes. Sadly, those shoes are still stuck in mud. With all the dynamism of a washing machine heard through a thick wall, the album relies on the vocals of frontman John Arthur Webb to carry scant impressions of tension and melody. But his singsong, mush-mouthed breathlessness leaves tracks like “Carrying” and “Can’t Dream” sounding plodding and hollow. Not to mention tired: Like its predecessor, Endless Now takes the slacker side of its early-’90s influences far too literally. When Webb and crew rouse themselves, they’re staggeringly good: “Mysteries Complete,” for instance, is a gnarled, bass-battered anthem, and the thrashing “Can’t Dream” dares to experiment with more than one speed-and-texture setting. Right now, the world is in dire need of a band like Male Bonding. Too bad Male Bonding has yet to fully step up to the plate.


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