This monstrously hard-rocking Los Angeles quartet can attract hordes of hair-flinging, stage-diving devotees at home and humiliate headliners on tour. What L7 has been unable to do, however, is translate its big grungy mess of a sound into product; both its 1987 outing on Epitaph and a 1990 EP for Sub Pop, Smell the Magic, failed. Enter Slash Records and producer du jour Butch Vig, whom many credit with the success of Nirvana's Nevermind. But if there was a lesson to be learned from L7's previous forays onto vinyl (or what have you), Vig hasn't paid attention. That is: L7 is chaos, a square in a world of circles; rein in that chaos and you've muffled the careening, scattershot energy that makes the band go.
Bricks throws the first stone on the opener, "Wargasm." Fueled by crunchy power chords (like all L7 numbers) and unapologetically political (like most L7 numbers), the song jeers at our country's blood lust from the opening line, "Tie a yellow ribbon round the amputee." The album's best song. "Scrap," is also the only one Vig hasn't flattened by giving the rhythm section, guitar and vocals equal, soggy balance. This story of a paint-sniffing skinhead features a shatteringly brilliant riff and coolly filtered vocals. Sometimes the band itself falters harmonizing, for example, on "Pretend We're Dead" but Bricks is rich with daring, dazzling moments. No other metal band would build a song around a line John Waters gave to Divine ("My diet pill is wearing off") that scores ancillary points about the media's manipulation of women. The band sneers at punk purists while gleefully showing its melodic hardcore roots in the full-barrel surf assault "Mr. Integrity."
L7 is too powerful sounding to buckle under the neatly modulated dynamics of Vig's production, but Bricks Are Heavy is merely raucous where it might have been apocalyptic. (RS 639)
(Posted: Jan 29, 1997)
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