"Yeah, I thought maybe I could lighten up the atmosphere a bit," says Scott McCloud. "But then I figured, fuck it, I'm not gonna write a happy album right now--let it be what it is."
It's hard to fault the Girls Against Boys frontman for letting his anger and frustration seep into the band's latest disc, You Can't Fight What You Can't See. That's because four years have elapsed since the New York quartet's last album--by far the longest recording break of the band's 12-year career--and it wasn't by choice. Mired in major-label limbo for practically all of that time, GVSB were akin to a jailed boxer seething in his cell, counting the days until his release so he could contend for the heavyweight title once again.
"It's absurd," McCloud flatly states. "It's been ridiculous to be in a rock band that doesn't release records! We got stuck in a situation where things would look good for a couple of months and then just disintegrate again. Basically we got squashed, which isn't exactly a new story, but it was new to us."
Fortunately, the respected indie label Jade Tree was waiting to embrace GVSB outside the prison gates, and You Can't Fight What You Can't See finds the foursome in stellar shape--far leaner and meaner than 1998's techno-bloated Freak*on*ica. McCloud's furiously jagged guitar riffs have regained their rightful place in the band's post-punk molotov cocktail, fueled by the punch-and-rumble of bassists Johnny Temple and Eli Janney (who also adds distorted keyboard snarls), and drummer Alexis Fleisig's powerful, feverish beats.
Thoughfully re-energized, McCloud still senses that this is a critical juncture for the band. They've survived a music biz beatdown, found a happy indie home once again, and returned to the sound and style they know best. But in the back of his mind, he knows the consequences of getting too cozy.
"I love this record, but I don't think we can make five more like it. I think if we're gonna continue, we'd have to totally commit to it--not that we haven't already committed cause we've been around for so long. But, quite honestly, I think in order to stay relevant we're gonna have to get even more into our own music.
"When you first start out, it's easy to have an excitement level that's really high because you're doing your thing for the first time. But when you've been at it for 12 years, you gotta make sure it's something important for you to be doing. And right now I'm diggin' it," McCloud grins. "Otherwise, it's like, what are you doing playing Cleveland again?!"