May 14, 2002
GIRLS AGAINST BOYS [I]YOU CAN'T FIGHT WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE[/I] REVIEW
After breaking free from their major-label contract, Girls Against Boys jumped headfirst into the underground, signing with Jade Tree and enthusiastically working on their next release. You Can't Fight What You Can't See is the result of four years fighting with corporate types and watching the alternative music scene shift from punk-pop and electronica to rap-rock and overdramatic post-grunge. To say that they have something to prove would be an understatement, and this album delivers their impending reaction to their environment. Everything is still in place, from the funky drumming of Alexis Fleisig to the cool vocals of Scott McCloud. And when the band is feeling it, tracks like "Tweaker" throb with an intensity that only this lineup of musicians can possibly muster. But a little of the major-label sheen still lingers on this recording; take "Miami Skyline" as an example. The song sounds similar to a John Spencer track when it first starts, but the chorus is a shockingly catchy bit of William Reid worship that brings to mind the hook-laden Freak*on*ica. Although fans may complain about still maintaining that poppy aspect of their sound, they aren't always successful at replicating the repetitive grind of their earlier albums. "300 Looks for the Summer" is a song that recalls their Tropic of Scorpio period, but is pretty boring overall. On the track, McCloud continually admits his disdain for Hollywood, yet his ugly moan lacks the passion it once delivered and the band seems to be going through the motions. They sound much more at home blending the techno pop of their last album with their earlier sound, which results in some satisfying songs but not a consistent album. "All the Rage" is probably the best track here, as it does the best job of reconciling the two approaches. But since their music is based on tension, this new approach deflates much of the usual pressure built by the band, making the eventual payoff nowhere near as exciting as it could be. They can really deliver some interesting songs when they travel even farther from both sounds, which is even more bizarre. "BFF" and "Kicking the Lights" are catchy rockers that recall Sonic Youth's song structuring with the hooks of the Jesus & Mary Chain. The latter comparison is probably the most appropriate to Girls Against Boys, as they seem to be at the Honey's Dead period in their career. Their last album was a technologically advanced and poppy effort that turned off many fans (much like Automatic), so they feel as though they should maintain some of their earlier sound despite their desire to move forward. And much like that album, this is a good effort from the band that has a few missteps but will probably smooth over many of the bumps caused by their last release. One can't help but feel that this is still a transitional album in general, but at least they've overcome their Garbage fascination and seem to be delivering music more in tune with their attitude and style.
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