Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

July 16, 2010

L7 ~ Smell The Magic

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Style: grunge, alt rock, punk
Label: Sub Pop
Year: 1990
Home: Los Angeles, California

Members: Donita Sparks ~ guitar/vocals
Suzi Gardner ~ guitar/vocals
Jennifer Finch ~ bass/vocals
Demetra Plakas ~ drums

Guest: Mike Patton ~ vocals

In some ways I'm reminded of the Helldorado, or screaming era, of W.A.S.P. listening to this. Though, I think that has more to the high pitched screaming, nasty lyrics (i.e. "Straight girls wish they were dykes ... got so much clit she don't need no balls" from "Fast & Frightening") if not violent (i.e. "Packin' A Rod") & fuzztone guitars (i.e. "Fast & Frightening") & surprisingly distinct melody lines over what is clearly raw punk rhythms. The similiarities also extend to the leather-clad look & feel of the band & the fact they share L.A. as a home, though this is where the differences start. While W.A.S.P. is firmly L.A. metal, with a few albums going into more experimental ends of the genre, L7 is much more garage band-esque as has come to be associated with the grunge movement because of their raw energy & personal lyrics. W.A.S.P. is far more pretentious & flashy. While L7 might just flash. It doesn't help that Smell The Magic was released through one of Seattle's top & now legendary labels, Sub Pop, who are not just famous for being a leader of Seattle music but also discovering Nirvana, releasing their debut Bleach. As for being associated with grunge I've always had difficulty in figuring out what exaclty is the grunge sound or if there is even a Seattle sound. Just compare grunge leaders Pearl Jam & Nirvana. Outside of sharing charismatic singers, these bands sound nothing alike. One only has to forget about grunge & look at Seattle music in general - which includes Heart, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees & Mud Honey - to wonder if there's really a Seattle sound. Maybe it's not in the sound, maybe it's in the coffee intake. We (I used to live there & grew up north of there) drink a lot of coffee! So, to acquaint L7 with grunge may or may not be helpful. It might be better to call L7 not the carriers of the grunge flag but picking up where the Runaways left off, which everyone now nows because of the movie, that featured overly-sexed Lita Ford, Joan Jett & Cherrie Currie who strutted around stage in her underwear & were the original riot grrrls in many ways. This is much more akin to the riot grrrl movement, also associated with Seattle. The lyrics aren't fancy but are very personal with a lot of 'girl power' & social criticism of relationships (i.e. "Don't want to drown in American society" from the song "American Society"). The problem with this album is that supposedly the lead vocal duties are rotated around. But, I didn't know this until I was looking at the album notes. On the other hand there's probably not a bad track on the album. And, guys, if you can't take the girl power ... don't tell your girlfriend.

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