On their third album in three years, Male Gaze returned to their original trio format and went back into the studio with Chris Woodhouse; the result is their best-sounding album of tough, murky, garagey punk yet. Miss Taken is very much of a piece with their first two records; not much has really changed. They stick to a stripped-down, fiery attack with thick and nasty guitars and Matt Jones' growling vocals high in the mix, while the bass and drums chase them down like a pack of hungry stray dogs. But some strangely subtle (for such an unsubtle-sounding band) improvements make this a better record. It feels like their confidence grows each time out, as the hooks get sharper, the guitars get more overpowering, and everything hits harder, like a hammer dropping from a great height. Tracks like "All Yours" and "African Ripoff" build a doomy, claustrophobic atmosphere, with the guitars forming what sounds like a wall of swarming bees. "Keep Yr Kools" and "If U Were My Girl" have a swaggering strut that's reminiscent of early Spoon, if they were darker and a bit more reductive. When Male Gaze lighten up here, it's the lightest they've ever been. The briskly jangling "Didn't" comes off like Ian Curtis' little brother fronting R.E.M. when they were still choked by kudzu, "Tell Me How It Is" could be a twin of one of the heartfelt ballads on Terry Malts' excellent Lost at the Party album, and the title track is immersed in tremolo and heartache, sort of like if Santo & Johnny Thunders were a thing. Nothing is too far from what they did before, and there are no really shocking departures anywhere. Instead, it's clear that Male Gaze have hit their stride on Miss Taken, and made the near-brilliant post-punk garage rock album their first two promised.