[sic] Magazine

Male Gaze – King Leer

Male Gaze are confirmed fans of the homophonic word game. First they went all spoonerist on their post-punky debut, Gale Maze, and of course they’re the latest in a short line, too, to toy with the duplicity of the phonetic form \ˈgāz\. Now they’re at it again with their latest LP’s title, King Leer/Lear. The trio, which consists of Matt Jones (ex-Blasted Canyons), Mark Kaiser (ex-Mayyors) and Adam Cimino (ex-The Mall), are playful on record as well and here their signature brand of scuzz-pop is polished ‘til it shines, hooks and melodies in plentiful supply. Indeed the pedal abuse of Gale Maze seems largely been banished now in favour of a type of jangling punk-rock that’s on the verge of becoming blushing New Wave.

A few moments aside, the low-slung intro to opener “Got It Bad” and the album’s ability to dig out a Ty Segall-istic fuzz riff on demand for example, the effect often seems to neuter Male Gaze’s ability to function as a punk band at all. It’s all very poppy. The Strokes poppy. The Killers poppy. Franz Ferdinand covering Weezer poppy as “Krav Maga” confirms, a choppy wave of fuzz that’s reputedly indebted to “bad-ass Israeli army chicks”. King Leer is Male Gaze dressed in their Sunday best. To their mothers they might look presentable, but throughout you get the impression they’d be far more comfortable hunched over a couple of beers and smokes. This unease comes to a head during “Green Flash”, an acoustically inclined number (that’s the PC term, right?) that’s sadly not about Dunlop footwear, but instead a rare type of optical phenomena caused during sunrise or set. It’s a shame then the track is so limp, sounding like a depressed Beck strumming away during several of its bars. The band themselves don’t even seem fond of it in recent interviews.

Finally finding some of their misplaced balls, the meandering “Easy To Void” tries to right several wrongs simultaneously. It’s taught jangles promise much and, as expected, the track erupts into some relatively heavy feedback as they peak. More surprisingly it also has a fairly faithful Goth-rock middle. It’s a confused track to say the least, but at least it’s not dull. Pick of the bunch, though, is “Stupid Heart. Its warped guitars are razor sharp and it has some real vim and vigour about it despite the ever-present poppy edge. It’s one of only a few moments where King Leer has a proper sense of balance to it, its soft sound palette given a much needed injection of bad boy cool. The damage is sadly done by this point however. Male Gaze are a band in need of quitting the games they seem to enjoy so much.

Best track: “Stupid Heart”

~King Leer is released June 24th 2016 via Castle Face.~