Girls Against Boys

Freak*on*Ica

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When the band's major-label effort emerged, the band members were quoted in interviews as saying they were aware of the post-Nirvana '90s cliché where a highly regarded indie rock band signed to a major and then seemingly disappeared after a mediocre effort. Unfortunately, that's just about what happened to the band itself, and it's little wonder why -- Freak*on*ica, on the heels of three brilliant albums, was practically a joke, sounding more like a commercial band attempting to cover Girls Against Boys than the group itself. That's not to say it's not enjoyable at points, especially with the quite excellent "Exorcisto," but instead of the thick, tense energy and inventive arrangements of the past, Freak*on*ica is all too clean and crisp, a bizarre slice of techno-metal far more appropriate for the likes of Garbage, who the band opened for around that time. Part of the blame lies squarely with the choice of producer -- instead of the productive Ted Niceley/Janney partnership that had been in place since Venus Luxure, the band either opted for or was assigned Nick Launay. The Australian's credentials at commercial but smart rock & roll were unquestioned, but either he and his crew smoothed out all the edges or let the group dig its own particular grave. Indeed, it should be said that a fair number of songs, right from the start with the fairly drab "Park Avenue" and "Pleasurized," lack a real spark. Scott McCloud's singing sounds petulant instead of threatening, the occasional weird blast of guitar or sample noise loop sound too clean by half, and the whole thing is an unfortunately classic example of what happens when a band with its own distinct sound and style gets wrung through the commercial wringer to no good purpose. Little wonder that Girls Against Boys realized their mistake and practically celebrated their eventual depature from Geffen to the skies.

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