CD Review: Male Bonding — Endless Now; Playing Red Palace in DC September 10th

Male Bonding
Endless Now
Sub Pop

By Al Kaufman

John Arthur Webb is not a happy guy. He lives inside his head, and what is in there is the type of stuff that makes Eeyore look like Barney. He just seems so resigned; like he knows his life will always suck and his girlfriend will always leave him. And from this inner torture emerges the type of hook-filled punk-pop that one can only dream about, except for Webb, who admits he “Can’t Dream.”

Endless Now is the sophomore effort of the London trio led by Webb, and it is a a hard sock to the gut. Webb’s guitars slash and burn, and Robin Christian’s drums pound unmercifully. Robin Christian, who shares the singing (and sometime mumbling) duties with Webb, supplies fat bass lines. If it all fuzzes and buzzes a little like Dinosaur Jr, that is to be expected. John Agnello, who has worked with Dinosaur Jr, produced. And the band recorded the album at Dreamland, a converted church in New York where Dinosaur Jr  cut Where You Been?. Yet Endless Now has a slightly more polished sound, and while their instruments whizz and whirr, Webb’s voice does not grate like J Mascis’ does. While Mascis sounds like his inner turmoil is about to make him explode, Webb sounds like he just wants to take a nap. It’s calming in its way.

The wonderful thing about Endless Now is that, while all the songs on here (save for the two-minute ballad, “The Saddle,”) offer up a a sort of melodic food fight, each song takes on its own identity. “Tame the Sun” begins with a scratchy bass line until the drums and fuzzy guitars kick in. “Carrying” offers a cool pop sound, complete with some “ah-ah-ah” Beach Boys on heroin chants. “Bones” is powered by its pounding drums but has a goth choir-like ending. A song about feelings and dreams locked inside, the music beautifully conveys that struggle.

But the masterpiece here is “Mysteries Complete.” The guitars and drums duck and dive according to the ever-changing rhythms, but they continue to chug on; as does Webb, even though he confesses that he betrays himself and wishes to leave. It’s a damn fine nugget of pop, as is just about every other ditty on here.

Male Bonding play the Red Palace in DC on Saturday, September 10th.

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