By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, the project had grown into a real band, filled out by McCloud, bassist Johnny Temple, and drummer Alexis Fleisig--all former members of Soulside, a band that had employed Janney as a soundman. Their new sound was gritty and funky, two basslines weaving back and forth over pulsating drums and skronky guitar leads. McCloud growled come-ons as if he were trying to steal your girlfriend; Janney and Temple played music as if they already had.
"We were just writing songs like we always had, even back to the Soulside days," McCloud recalls. "Just a bunch of guys in a room making noise, figuring out what we were going to do with these grooves. It all just kind of came out of that. On the new record, there's a lot of keyboard stuff, and that kind of came about in the same way. Just making noise until we hit upon something we liked."
The sound carried over to the quartet's next two albums, 1995's Cruise Yourself and the brilliant House of GVSB. By the time House of GVSB was released, the band had already signed with Geffen. The album was released on Touch and Go, however, to fulfill a verbal agreement the band had made with that label. House of GVSB could have just been a contract-killer, terminating the band's relationship with Touch and Go, but it was better than any album the band had released; it was probably better than any album they will release. It was full of undulating bass lines and metal-on-metal guitars and sounded like Fugazi jamming with Bootsy Collins' Rubber Band--funk and punk and everything else. House of GVSB was sultry rock at its finest, though it may have set the bar too high for the band's major-label debut. No one should have expected the band to top it, but everyone did.
"We wanted to kind of mess with our scene a little bit, you know?" says McCloud. "There was a little pressure there. We wanted to get a different producer, a different studio, do things differently. We just wanted a different-sounding record. We didn't want to make another House of GVSB.
In the end, it's hard to tell if the band "messed with its scene" too much, or not enough. Freak*On*Ica is the sound of chances not being taken, of missed opportunities. Girls Against Boys didn't sell out as much as they played out their hand and found out that everyone else at the table had better cards. McCloud doesn't agree. He thinks that Freak*On*Ica is some of the band's best work yet, a gem that will be discovered when people can listen to the album without judging it by the band's past.
"It's hard to get people to listen to something with an open mind sometimes, but I think if they do, they'll see that this album is not that different from anything else we've done. But we've never worried about that anyway. All we are is four guys who like making music together, and if no one else wants to hear it, then that's fine. We want people to listen to us, and we want people to enjoy us, but if they don't, we have to respect that, you know. We make records for ourselves, as stupid as that sounds. We make records because we like doing it. When the fun stops, so will we."
Girls Against Boys performs at Trees on July 23. Buffalo Daughter and Stanford Prison Experiment open.