L7 – Wargasm: The Slash Years (1992-1997)
Who knows if the L in L7 stands for ‘lucky’?
But there was a time in the mid 90s when fans of feisty alternative rock couldn’t believe their good fortune.
Synonymous with grunge but powered by punk, the über cool LA quartet kicked proverbial ass.
Mixing saccharine couplets with socio-political punch, L7 served up a cocktail of anti-establishment cynicism.
But they often did so with a great big smile on their faces.
Wargasm’s classic play on words is the perfect moniker for this catch-all collection of the band’s best-known work.
And The Slash Years proves to be a cut above your average career resumé.
L7 Square The LA Circle
Originally formed a decade after fellow LA crew The Runaways burst onto the scene, L7 have much in common with the fellow Californians.
There’s the bold as brass attitude.
The ambition that cuts through every song here like a knife through butter.
And the happy knack of fusing earworm melodies with raw musicianship.
Of course, listen hard to L7’s biting lyrics and they make Joan Jett, Lita Ford and co. sound like nuns from the local convent.
There’s more grit than glam underpinning Wargasm’s edgier moments.
But punk is at the heart of two perennially influential acts.
Pretend We’re Dead Sees L7 Alive And Kicking
Fuelled by minor hit Pretend We’re Dead, 1992’s Bricks Are Heavy was perfectly timed.
It was guaranteed to get the shoe-gazing grunge kids tapping their boots.
And catchy enough to capture MTV’s undivided attention — momentarily catapulting L7 into rock’s big leagues.
Double trouble Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner were a duo to be reckoned with from day one.
The former’s lead vocals added bellowing depth to a band on the rise.
And the latter’s guitar work soundtracked many of grunge’s finest moments.
But it was when Sparks and Gardner mixed and matched that L7 became elevated 7.
On Everglade and Monster, the two UK Top 40 hits that followed hot on the heels of Pretend We’re Dead, the band grew their reputation as underground scene leaders.
And if gaining recognition back home was a constant struggle then British fans quickly warmed to four fabulously gifted women with something serious to say.
Of the three B sides included as bonus tracks, a cracking cover of Guns N Roses’ Used To Love Him has to be heard to be believed.
It’s a reassuringly bold curveball that couldn’t be more L7 if it tried.
Hungry For Stink And Hungry For More
It took L7 two long years to follow up Bricks Are Heavy.
And maybe, by then, expectations were just as weighty for Sparks and co.
But if L7 were feeling the pressure then Hungry For Stink screams an appetite for destruction.
Lyrically even darker than its thought-provoking predecessor, it’s a record that marks a moment in time for a quartet coming to terms with some serious professional and personal challenges.
And it’s an album that bristles with simmering intent from start to finish.
Single Andres — the only 45 to make it off Hungry For Stink — could and should have been a far bigger hit.
But L7 were already struggling to make themselves heard in a scene saturated with Hole and Nirvana wannabes.
And classics like Questioning My Sanity and She Has Eyes (one of the best Sparks songs here) never quite captured the imagination beyond a fiercely loyal fan base.
Lionel Ritchie Joins L7
Fun fact about 1995’s the Beauty Process: Triple Platinum…it features Lionel Ritchie.
Credited with the ‘count-off’ on Moonshine, the soul star was working down the corridor at LA’s Conway Studios as L7 wrapped up their fifth long player.
And Sparks chanced her arm by inviting Ritchie to add his considerable clout to Beauty Process.
It’s a bizarre quirk on a record full of them.
L7 were never afraid to push the boundaries.
And this is the record where anything goes for a band with nothing to prove and everything to gain.
Drama (check out the bonus Piss Off version included as a bonus track) does what it says on the tin.
The Masses Are Asses uses a neat rhyme to lay into allcomers.
And Me, Myself & I is a self-reflective beast of an anthem.
When the classic L7 line-up got back together in 2014 punk rockers everywhere punched the air with joy.
Music needs Sparks to fly. And it’s far too early to put Gardner out to grass.
Wargasm’s relentless battle for the senses is a timely reminder that L7 had — and still have — talent to burn.