[sic] Magazine

Male Gaze – Miss Taken

Male Gaze are nothing if not consistent as, back just one year on from King Leer, Miss Taken is one more step on their journey to self-parody. First they went all spoonerist on their post-punk debut, Gale Maze, and – of course – they’re also the latest in a short line, too, to toy with the duplicity of the phonetic form \ˈgāz\. Then there was King Leer/Lear, a collection of jangling punk-rock on the verge of becoming blushing New Wave. They’re not even the first either to go down the route of homophonic gags at the expense of Miss Taken. The problem is, though, that the further they go down this rabbit hole of playful wordplay – there’s a hooky, mid-tempo track here named “Pale Gaze” too – the less and less musically essential they seem to be.

On the plus side, Miss Taken’s 35 minutes are better than those of the really very poppy King Leer. That album was the sound of them neutered, dressed in their Sunday best, but Male Gaze seem much better suited to being hunched over a couple of beers and smokes. It’s pleasing to report then that on Miss Taken, the trio, consisting of Matt Jones (ex-Blasted Canyons), Mark Kaiser (ex-Mayyors) and Adam Cimino (ex-The Mall), have resolutely got their guitars back and with them an edge of bad boy cool. Lead and bass, back to type, play off each in melodic post-punk fashion while making a sound somewhere closer to punk-rock and scuzz-pop getting freaky in the sheets. It’s all still very catchy, but in a number of places – though not all – it’s much better nuanced.

At the poorer end of the scale are a series of nothingy rockers notable only for containing a surprising dose of heartland oomph, teary synths and dreary – almost Oasis-esque – acoustic melodies as they unspool. Resident in the mid-ranges, “Wha Do Wha Do” is tidy enough, while the generic “If U Were My Girl” latterly digs out some fat fuzz riffs with which to save its bacon and simultaneously beat you around the face. The tongue-in-cheek “African Ripoff” is more fun still, cultural appropriation of a heavy blues groove taken to a knowingly killer conclusion. LP highlight “All Yours” is more straightforwardly rocking and it does Male Gaze the world of good. Free of pretence, its sneering and nonchalant – the sort of thing that if presented as the new single from The Strokes everyone would be losing their shit over. Male Gaze continue to try too hard overall, but with tracks like this it’s clear there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Best track: “All Yours”

~Miss Taken is released June 16th 2017 via Castle Face.~