Having emerged quite forcefully out of London's trendier-than-thou Dalston scene two years ago, the energetic trio that is Male Bonding have gone from strength to strength ever since. While initially formed as something of an homage to their US underground heroes like No Age and Icarus Line by vinyl enthusiasts and one-time record store employees Kevin Hendrick, John Arthur Webb and Robin Christian, their no-nonsense take on grunge, pop and punk with a slightly off-kilter shoegaze twist has seen them acquire a legion of devotees up and down the land culminating in a deal with esteemed Seattle imprint Sub Pop. Maybe there's a lesson for all fledgling musicians? Lots of Work followed by an occasional rest with very little play and the world's your oyster.
While last year's debut 'Nothing Hurts' hurtled along at 110 miles per hour like an out of control locomotive, the follow-up 'Endless Now' takes a more reflective stance than its predecessor. Sure, the influences that made Male Bonding such an endearing prospect from the outset - Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, No Age, 'Isn't Anything' era My Bloody Valentine - remain intact, but they've been joined by several other inspirational forces which suggests Male Bonding's long term future may err more towards the pop end of the genre production line. Seriously.
Take the colossal 'Bones' for example, a long and winding punk opera that borders on the sentimental without resorting to cheese. Throughout its six-and-a-half minutes, it veers off at the halfway mark, almost like a song in two parts, and ultimately ends up in a desolate place several thousand miles away from the sugar rush bombast of 'Nothing Hurts'. Likewise with 'Can't Dream', a reflective mid-paced composition that mirrors the stark departure Idlewild were to embark on between 'Hope Is Important' and '100 Broken Windows'. Lyrically downbeat ("Your words just hang around, that way you know they've let you down"), it's the most evident sign yet that Male Bonding's ambitions are a damn sight more grandiose than many observers first realised.
That's not to say they've turned their back on raucous two-minute bubblegum punk either. Opening twosome 'Tame The Sun' and 'Carrying' could both easily have forced their way onto 'Endless Now''s predecessor, the latter sounding like The Vaccines more brattish, unruly kid brother to the former's eerie resemblance to early nineties contenders Midway Still. 'Mysteries Complete' and 'What's The Scene?' also buzz energetically around gravely riffs and exuberant yet polished vocals.
'Endless Now' is perhaps best summed up though by the ninety-second acoustic lament that is 'The Saddle', a poignant country number that repeats the phrase "I won't be around for long" several times before petering out. Somehow, we'd like to think they're jesting, and with such a diverse bag of treats on offer here, the boundaries for Male Bonding to explore on album number three are limitless.