The ’90s generated lots of terrific pop culture — Sandman comics, Pulp Fiction, decent Mortal Kombat games, etc. — but quiz Male Bonding on their favorite product of the decade and, if they’re telling it straight, the London trio are bound to pick American indie rock. Their debut album is a lo-fi celebration of whizzing guitars, scuffed-up melodies, and drowsy vocals — all elements culled from the back catalogues of Merge, Matador, and, appropriately, Sub Pop.
Even with an old-school feel threaded through the sonics, Nothing Hurts glistens with a youthful affability. Cohesion is kept to a minimum as the band rummage through whatever they can find to spruce up their modest rock: high-pitched croons appear in “Nothing Remains,” a cowbell snarls on “TUFF,” childish shouts dot “Pumpkin,” and a spritely hook bounces around “Weird Feelings.” As instruments wistfully (and, on occasion, ferociously) char amps, the vocals toss out vaguely despondent observations like “Nothing will change/It all stays the same” and “All of this won’t last forever.”
The lyrics do little to stand out, but that hardly blights the rest of the experience. And none of the 13 tracks on Nothing Hurts tops the 2:45 mark, so it’s a speedy listen. Do keep an ear out for the quirky closer: noise-pop peers Vivian Girls guest on “Worst To Come,” an autumnal acoustic number that descends into sheets of crackling feedback, only to return to the acoustic portion as if nothing had happened.