Second album brings Male Bonding closer together
John Arthur Webb gets it when music critics compare his band, Male Bonding, to forebears from the ’90s Britpop invasion or to an even earlier moody touchstone, the Smiths.
“I like them. They have good songs,’’ Webb offers, but the direct link that a magazine writer made between Male Bonding and Blink-182 eludes him.
Writers began circling London’s Male Bonding once the band’s 2010 debut, “Nothing Hurts,’’ percolated up from Sub Pop, the influential indie label in Seattle.
“The English journalists, in particular, try to intellectualize everything,’’ Webb says. “I suppose you can do that with our music, but it’s not what our music is meant for.’’
Getting back to Blink-182, Male Bonding does play something you could classify as pop-punk. Yet the dynamic unspools quite differently in Male Bonding’s music. Instead of conforming to pop-punk’s chipper three-chord melodies and teen-angst lyrics, Male Bonding delivers sharp, abrasive guitars accounting for the “punk’’ element and smoky, melancholic melodies and lyrics forming the “pop.’’
The band’s sophomore album, “Endless Now,’’ comes out on Tuesday, and pushes past “Nothing Hurts’’ with greater variety in the songs. Male Bonding returns to Boston on Wednesday for a show at the Brighton Music Hall with Love Inks and Girlfriends.
Webb says that Male Bonding wanted to work with producer John Agnello on its debut but could not coordinate a schedule with the man who worked on records for such vets as Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth as well as those by Kurt Vile and other fresh voices. But Male Bonding and Agnello coordinated to work together in the winter.
Agnello brought Male Bonding to the Dreamland studio in Woodstock, N.Y. The trio and the producer spent a week at the converted church, and Webb says the lack of distractions allowed the band to work quickly. It helped that they were already prepared.
“Most of the record was written before we got to the studio. The tones and sounds were all chosen in advance, and we just worked on executing it,’’ Webb says. “That’s why John is so great. He’s not a musician, but he thinks like a musician in terms of building the songs.’’
The formerly DIY outfit went all out with guitar and vocal overdubs, prompting Male Bonding to add guitarist Nathan Hewitt to the lineup of bassist Kevin Hendrick, drummer Robin Silas Christian, and Webb for the current tour. Frankie Rose, formerly of Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls, joined Male Bonding in the studio to add vocal harmonies. Cello, keyboards, mellotron, and other assorted effects extend the band’s sonic spectrum.
While all of the songs on “Nothing Hurts’’ were less than three minutes long, “Endless Now’’ shows Male Bonding stretching out on the six-minute “Bones’’ and the four minutes and 25 seconds of shimmer-pop bliss of “Channeling Your Fears.’’ Yet much of what first attracted listeners to Male Bonding is intact. The succinct “The Saddle,’’ for instance, evokes a genuine tenderness much like the earlier songs made their points in short order.
Webb can see the connection from one project to the next but also reveals the effects of whirlwind growth when, mid conversation, he stumbles over the title of Male Bonding’s first record and just refers to it as “what’s-it-called.’’
“You don’t really think about it,’’ he says. “This is the next bunch of songs.’’
Webb says everything he writes makes sense to him and flows from personal experience. Yet Male Bonding does not sound like it is penning open-diary confessionals.
“I don’t expect it to make sense to anyone else,’’ he says. “That first record sounds so high-energy and fun, but those lyrics were not coming from a happy place. I was venting frustrations. You could say this one has more of an obvious melancholy and sad tone.’’
So there is a bit of thought, then, put into the song craft, with the personal shaped into the poetic. Still, it’s easy to simply get caught up in the energy of the playing and singing without worrying too much about the specifics; at least Webb isn’t sweating the details.
“Oh, I’m not talented enough to be precious about it,’’ he says.
Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.