With tangled, freakily-dyed tresses and pit-stampeding bad attitude, championing pure macha pleasure ( one T-shirt design featured an S/M-garbed woman harnessing a guy's face to her crotch, with the tag line "Smell the Magic." Indeed.), L7 staked out a women's version of the guitar-god/he-man crunch of heavy metal, and hauled a sizable underground following, major-label deal, and MTV success along in its wake. Like fellow "monster girl" bands--SF's Frightwig, New York's Lunachicks and Minneapolis's Babes In Toyland-- L7 wasn't out to reform the brute force of skull-crunching, balls-out thrash; they just wanted to stamp it with their own, indelibly female point of view. Helped by tunes that took hooks as seriously as grunge, L7 hurdled out of the pack and into American youth consciousness. By 1992's Bricks are Heavy, L7 was radicalized, having watched the Gulf War via satellite and started an abortion right group, Rock for Choice, with the Feminist Majority Foundation. Produced by Nevermind knob-twiddler Butch Vig, Bricks boils L7 down to the bare bones, stretching its aggro fuzz into tuneful, winding melodies and dragging the vocals into zombie chants and volatile howls. It's frostily allof where Smell the Magic is white hot, with songs like "Diet Pill" and "Everglade" cooly unfolding until their repressed energy bursts forth like a pipe bomb.
Guitarist/vocalist Donita Sparks reigns as L7's siren of syrup and steel, bitting through Brick's lyrical waggery, explicated rage, and overtly political rants with a leathery, serrated contralto. She deconstructs the military turn-on with fierce clarity on "Wargasm," then tweaks hipsters for their homogenous apathy on "Pretend We're Dead"-- the Brick's single that milked B-52's infectiousness out of a slow metal chunk and became L7's breakthrough.


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