Grunge greats L7 return with the new Scatter the Rats | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Grunge greats L7 return with the new Scatter the Rats 

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click to enlarge L7

L7

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As a serious young grunger, I was determined to turn over every mossy Seattle-sounding rock. In addition to the big boys (though we all knew Pearl Jam were poseurs), I was a fan of sub-poppin’ bands including Skin Yard, Green Magnet School, and the Fluid. The scene wasn’t all hairy dudes, but few of the gnarly lady bands really thrilled me. L7 were a different story. The foursome’s second album, 1990's Smell the Magic, seemed to have it all: hilariously snarky lyrics, style to spare, and crunchy, catchy tunes (especially the fist-pumpin' single “Shove”). When I saw L7 play Cabaret Metro in June 1991 with locals D.O.P.E. and Mama Tick (anyone remember them?), my awe only grew. They had tons of energy, and they’d already begun playing material off their breakthrough 1992 LP, Bricks Are Heavy, which featured the borderline hit “Pretend We’re Dead.” With that album, L7 polished up their uber-rockin’ anthem game (though they kept their signature self-deprecating aesthetic), and the buzz-band rotation they earned on MTV made them look like the “next Nirvana” all the record labels had been hunting for. Guitarist-vocalist Donita Sparks was also a super-charismatic front woman who didn’t give anything resembling a fuck: she once dropped her pants during a live TV performance, and at the 1992 Reading Festival, she retaliated against a trash-tossing crowd by throwing her used tampon (which AOL music site Spinner called “one of the most unsanitary souvenirs in alt-rock history”). L7 would tour with the likes of Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, and Faith No More, and they were even the subject of their own pseudo-documentary, 1998’s The Beauty Process (directed by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic). In 2001 the band finally took a break, but by the time a proper doc about the band dropped in ’16, L7 had become tour monsters all over again, hitting festivals on both sides of the Atlantic in summer ’15. Their seventh album, Scatter the Rats, came out May 3 via Joan Jett’s Blackheart label. The single “Burn Baby” is two and a half minutes of their trademark chugging riffage and snarly commentary (this time about the record industry), with a hooky chorus that would make the Breeders’ power-poppin’ hearts flutter. L7’s reunion lineup is the same classic crew that came together in 1988—Sparks, bassist-vocalist Jennifer Finch, guitarist-vocalist Suzi Gardner, and drummer Demetra Plakas—so this should be one fun slammin’ mosh pit of a gig. Just watch out for UFFOs—unidentified flying feminine objects.   v

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