Male Bonding - "Tame The Sun" (MP3)
Just three years ago, a few mates stacking Mudhoney and The Connells records at London’sReckless Records decided to form a pop punk group for kicks. They even put out their own split 7” through their own DIY label. But never in their wildest dreams thought A&R reps from Sub Pop would be crossing the pond to import their reminiscent college rock sound which made both overnight sensations. Their 2010 debut Nothing Hurts garnered nothing but lavish praise from an indie blogosphere begging for a raw 30 minute album that harkened back to the beginning of the whole movement their new employers helped establish 20 years ago.
Like almost any sophomore release, they wanted to beef up their tone, try on some new arrangements and not waste any time in the studio, now that they actually had some. Holing up in the storied Dreamland Studios outside of Woodstock in March with famed grunge producer John Agnello (Dinosaur, Jr., Thurston Moore) they had all the ingredients in place for a masterful follow up. But alas they still find themselves trapped inside the confines of the riff-counter-riff schematic that may never allow them to push the envelope as far as we want them to.
A crunchy three-chord bass line gets opening track “Tame the Sun” going, but that initial edgy tone quickly changes into a repetitive poppy chorus that tries to incorporate some expansive rhythm guitar to no avail. “Carrying” sounds like a stripped down version of an Arctic Monkeys song before it once again gets bogged down in John Webb’s surf pop vocals only to be momentarily rescued by newcomer Nathan Hewitt’s tropical noodling.
The first song on the album that actually pricks your ears is “Bones” with an infectious four-chord progression coming down for an emergency landing amidst gradually distorted hammers and more spooky harmonies that match the laconic feel of the song. The next three tracks all sort of blend together except for a welcomed attempt at capturing the essence of a ‘60s surf rock oldies on “What’s that Scene”.
Fortunately they chose one of the few creative numbers off the album for their album trailer with “Can’t Dream”. Thanks to a fuzzed out whammy delay in the first few seconds, we know we’re about to enter familiar territory. Things begin to space out midway through the song with a soft kick drum, cymbal tapping, and high frequency pedal effects not heard by this reviewer since Wilco’s “Misunderstood”. And for once, we actually don’t hear the chorus coming from a mile away after an excellent bridge.
This song is emblematic of what the rest of the album should have sounded like and hoped to prove. That yes, a pop punk band could take their sound places we wouldn’t expect them to while retaining the hooks and energy we all adored from a year ago. If you’re looking for well executed, predictable pop punk jams then this album will satisfy — but certainly leaves us thirsting for more.