Let’s turn up the volume a little bit, shall we? This one needs to be played loud. L7’s Bricks Are Heavy, from 1992, is today’s top 100 pick.
L7, apparently slang for “square,” features Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch, and Demetra Plakas. Sparks wrote most of the songs and handles vocals, with Gardner taking lead on “Slide,” “Monster,” and “This Ain’t Pleasure.” Bassist Finch does lead vocals on two tracks, and wrote “One More Thing” and co-wrote “Everglade.”
Coming along soon after Nirvana’s breakthrough, it was tagged “grunge,” though it would have been equally at home in the “metal” category.
Bricks are Heavy starts the album with a bang, with “Wargasm” laying down a heavy riff and thundering drums straight out of the gate. Released shortly after the Gulf War, “Wargasm” is a blunt commentary on the “video game” nature of the first war against Iraq and the public’s consumption of it. It also holds the likely distinction of being the only song improved by the presence of Yoko Ono, with the band sampling her trademark yowl for the song.
“Scrap” is a simple, heavy track about a paint-huffing skinhead who nearly falls in with a Christian group but “he dug metallic gold more than Luke and John.” Another short one, it’s two minutes and 54 seconds of everything going full blast. Fuzzed out guitar, thunderous drums, and Sparks having a grand time with the vocals.
“Pretend We’re Dead” was the first single off the album. If you have heard only one song by L7, this is probably it. From heavy rotation on MTV to the Shaun of the Dead trailer, it’s been all over the place. “Pretend We’re Dead” has a chunky, obvious, but satisfying riff driving the song while Sparks exhorts the audience to get off their ass politically:
Turn the tables with our unity They're neither moral nor majority Wake up and smell the coffee Or just say no to individuality
After “Pretend,” L7 slides into a plodding groove for “Diet Pill.” This one alludes to a woman who’s had enough, and killed “Victor” with a frying pan.
'cause Victor's in the bed Sewn in the sheets with thread The twins are in the car The frying pan is red Calgon can't take me away No, Calgon can't take me away From the things that I did today
My favorite cut on the album, “Everglade” is an infectious song about a woman trying to have fun at a show in the mosh pit while a “drunk, stupid” guy keeps being an asshole. If you’ve been in a mosh pit, you know the type. While everybody else is bouncing and having a great time, there’s one ass throwing fists and trying to put the hurt on people. Naturally, he gets his comeuppance. “Everglade” has some staccato guitar work that’s just plain joyful, and Plakas turns in some fantastic drumming on this piece.
Bricks Are Heavy is a fantastic album to put on at the gym, or after a bad day. Ever had a bad, no-good, super terrible day? “One More Thing” is your jam. “One More Thing” is in no hurry, it just thrums along while Finch recites a litany of problems that come up – one more thing after another.
Somebody’s really annoying you? Put ’em on your “Shitlist.” Sparks’ cathartic screamfest about “all you assholes who won’t be missed” is the perfect cut for venting. “Mr. Integrity” puts Bricks into high gear. It kicks off fast and intense, and never lets up.
The entire album is 11 tracks, but just shy of 38 minutes. There’s no waste, not a single bad cut on the entire album. It’s not the band’s only good album, Smell the Magic is a fine album, and L7’s self-titled debut album is enjoyable as well. Hungry for Stink loses the thread and just becomes atonal and screamy in spots, where the band’s previous work found that blissful line where angry and melody meet.
Bricks are Heavy is the place to start for any music freak that has a penchant for heavy, grungy rock.