Review: Girls Against Boys – “House of GVSB: 25th Anniversary Edition”

Ladies and gentlemen: Girls Against Boys is back. It’s been nine long years since the New York noise rockers released The Ghost List EP and it’s been nearly 20 since their last full-length LP, 2002’s You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See. But, for most, the group has been making noise largely deep in the background since its mid-‘90s heyday, and it’s some of the finest material from that period that’s collected on the new House of GVSB: 25th Anniversary Edition, out on Touch and Go Records. But is the return of GVSB the big news? Sorta. The real thesis of the record, an anxiety-ridden pill pushed out as the band was holding back on a leap to the majors, was that these guys always were goddamn ON; the B-sides and compilation offerings, etc., that make us the second disc of this two-disc set are just as righteously good – sometimes, dare I say, better – than what’s been remastered from the original 1996 LP. For a band to pull off that feat, they’ve got to stand like giants – and GVSB, back on vinyl, do just that, again and again.

The excitement hits on all cylinders, starting with the addictive-as-meth “Super-Fire,” which starts with metallic fury, devolves into an epic funk groove and rotates on turns off phrases like “When you’ve got/ Nothing in the lemon,” a French idiom for losing your mind that frontman Scott McCloud tosses out with unusual authority. Those looking for misses best look elsewhere. By the time listeners reach the fourth song, the deceptive ear candy of “Disco Six Six Six,” it’s obvious that GVSB are one-upping their best work – my two cents: 1993’s Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby – and nailing all the psycho-sexual strut, to boot. The new master of “Life In Pink” cuts deep into the skin. The anthemic “Wilmington” never sounded so bar-room big. “TheKindaMzkYouLike” hunts and kills.

It’s easy, though, a quarter of a century later, to dictate the great moments of a record released by a wondrous Chicago indie back in 1996. Touch and Go label-master Corey Rusk – and the band, of course – knows this and treats longtime fans to some great period material that’s, more or less, been lost to everyone outside of the band’s deepest devotees. And it is mighty good.

Yes, GVSB include the “Sexy Sam”/”I’m From France” 7-inch single, of course, of course. But try sitting through the band’s riot-sparking take on the Frank Sinatra staple “My Funny Valentine” without busting out a move – I dare you to try to sit still. (That one’s courtesy of a long-lost comp. titled Chairman of the Board.) “Magattraction,” with its fuzz-bliss leads and driving refrains, is another gem of the era, this one pulled from a Jabberjaw compilation. The chorus, with its invocations of “I’ve got no money/ I’ve got no soul,” leaves blisters on the surface of the skin.

The second disc is packed with goodies and many could have come right from the House of GVSB LP. “Red Bar,” off the Enragez Vous comp., is a noisy gem with excellent, burbling bass lines and a sweet Dictaphone-style vocal take from McCloud. “If Glamour Is Dead,” off a Super-Fire single, takes choppy guitars to new heights as the bass guitar lurches along to the climaxing chorus – this thing deserves A-side attention. “Viva Roma Star,” an off-kilter little beauty, incorporates piano and still manages to sound like it’s a few days past needing a shave.

All in all, this is a masterful outing from a band some might have forgotten was more than capable of crafting material this good. Yes, it’s time to hide the ladies. Girls Against Boys is back. And the quartet’s new collection reminds us all what we’ve been missing. — Justin Vellucci, Spectrum Culture, May 19, 2022


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.