I’m back at the Ruby Lounge again and it seems to be turning in to a bit of a ritual.  The place has definitely pulled its finger out of late and is getting some top bands through its doors and down its stairs into its gloomy embrace. It’s certainly becoming a bit of a rising star on Manchester’s venue circuit.

And, tonight I’m here for a bit of Male Bonding. It looks just like that too, swinging into the main room before eight, the smart-arses who snigger at the band name might well feel justified glancing around at the largely male presence, but when the support take the stage it appears most of the early birds are here for them.

That support kicks off with Weird Era who seem to be typical support material: not quite fully realised while the venue and soundman seem to pay them minimal regard.  Their levels are all over the place, but given their nineties, shoe-gazer feel you have to wonder whether it’s intentional.  Though, to be honest, soundmen at these gigs don’t really pay much mind to the sound the (little) band wants, so probably not.  The vocalist sounds like he’s singing from a cubicle in the gents while the raucous guitar has a go at ripping your ear drums out.  But, sound aside, they’ve got good tunes.  And the noise guitar is good…

Following them are The History of Apple Pie.  They appear as the antithesis of Weird Era in that they exude more of a presence but their sound falls a bit flat.  However, they do pick up a few tunes in to the set and you can guess that they’ve done a bit more time on the stage than Weird Era, and they go down well.  There’s something Breeders-esque about them with the female vocal harmonies, while the guitars embellish the sound with a Sonic Youth dressing.

And, on to the main course… Male Bonding, touring in the wake of their new release, Endless Now, don’t tarry.  They rocket through the first few songs without so much as coming up for air.  And you get the idea it’s going to be one tempo and volume throughout: fast and loud.

At times they seem to be lacking something though, despite the extra man.  I thought there were three…  But, the energy of the songs alone is enough to carry them forward.  The drummer looks like a lunatic, and to be fair, looks like he’s grafting, nailing down the tunes machine-like while the rest of the music hangs from his beats.

Occasionally, their performance sparkles, particularly with tunes like T.U.F.F, and Bones.  The former is the chaotic, one-minute-something punk track from the album Nothing Hurts, and has the kids at the front jumping all over each other. And the latter is probably my favourite from the new album.  It’s repetitive and really infectious, and the version tonight has extra bite (as it should) with its wall-of-sound guitar noise recalling My Bloody Valentine.

Throughout though, I’m feeling quite ambivalent about the performance as the highlights are counter-balanced by something that feels a bit tired.  Maybe it’s just me, or maybe they are a bit knackered, but I can’t help feeling it should be stronger.  I’m not as impressed as, say, the first time I listened to Nothing Hurts.  That said, they’re well worth checking out.  Show a bit of solidarity gents (and ladies, of course).