Girls Against Boys – **House of GVSB**

4 out of 5

Label: Touch and Go

Produced by: Ted Niceley

House of GVSB was always my least trafficked Girls Against Boys album, which is a little odd as it might be their best overall disc past Venus Luxure.  But I came at the group backwards,-  starting with Freak*On*Ica, giving me an odd adoration for that album, and then flipped back to their debut.

Nothing beats the slam bang impact of VL, which hits hard even today, and though Cruise Yourself is something of a retread, it amplifies the half-smirking sense of cool and sweaty sex the band’s sound suggested.  Chronologically, knowing that GVSB were slotted to jump to a major, House is badass, but listening to it in isolation can be misleading: it’s more serious, more rock-oriented, more layered.  It’s absolutely GVSB, just maybe with the sass set aside and bringing back some of that old school Discord snarl – and when you approach it wanting sass, maybe that seems dry.

So here I am now, tunes pumped up in headphones, having listened to a string of GVSB discs recently, and I’m having one of those moments where it feels like I’m hearing the disc for the first time and wondering where the heck my ears were before.  The riffs here hit hard, producer Ted Niceley letting the group’s sound ring out in a really raw fashion while also bringing more layers forward.  Interestingly, this is the first disc to not play up the double bass thing, but it sounds richer for it, the sound very present and unified.  And yeah, we’re still lyrically obsessed with nightlife, but vocalist Scott has dropped a lot of the silly asides and too-cool lounge language that make lyrics on previous albums not really something to delve into, with themes actually contemplative – perhaps of the big steps that were to come! – as opposed to inconstantly cynical.

There are there some off beats that crop up: TheKindaMzkYouLike feels caught in Cruise Yourself posturing, hidden behind House’s rougher ‘tude, and the last two tracks feel less complete, the penultimate Wilmington added to flesh out the track count, starting and ending without much change, and closer Zodiac Love Team seems to just fill the ‘quiet track’ quota, trailing far behind other GVSB versions of this.

House of GVSB makes a lot of sense as a pre-major release, but equally impresses on its own standards: it’s cleaned up and focused, playing up the group’s rock sensibilities without losing their inherent groove.