Girls Against Boys

Tropic of Scorpio

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Coming in at a brisk 30 minutes, Girls Against Boys' full debut album is a slightly off-and-on affair, but when it works it fulfills the promise of the earliest recordings and then a little bit more. Given that everyone besides Janney had spent the time beforehand trying to recuperate from Soul Side in another band before giving Girls Against Boys another shot, it's probably little surprise that Tropic of Scorpio ended up the way it did. Having had a particularly smart, sharp singing voice in evidence on Nineties Vs. Eighties, here McCloud more often sounds more conventionally run-of-the-mill punk in his hoarse rasp -- more than once he sounds like really early Henry Rollins! Musically, though, the commanding grooves from the Temple/Fleisig rhythm section started really coming to the fore, finding their own take on edgy funk in a punk-inspired world. There are even hints of motorik/Krautrock chug which, combined with things like the distorted backing vocals on "Wow Wow Wow," likely helped start the well-meaning Fall comparisons that would dog the band in later years. Girls Against Boys had their own particular angular approach from the start, though -- less sloppy (if engagingly so) than said U.K. bunch, more interested in cutting, razor-sharp arrangements. Janney's production again works like a charm, slipping in plenty of subtle touches here and there -- the odd high drone on "Matching Wits With Flaming Frank," the drums-up-front/vocals-buried-deep mix of "Plush." Various D.C. friends help on the songs, which is why Nathan Larson from Shudder to Think is having fun with '50s jazz trumpet as played by a drunk lounge musician on the swank "Everything I Do Seems to Cost Me $20" -- and, of course, its reprise, "Everywhere I Go I Seem to Spend $20."

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