Noise Annoys: Queens of grunge L7 Scatter The Rats, plus a video taster from THVS
"WE'RE not rocket science, we're rock and roll": so says Donita from the mighty L7, everyone's favourite recently reanimated LA grunge rockers who released Scatter The Rats – their first album for 20 years – last week.
During the angsty1990s alt-rock explosion, this reliably raucous lot were always a go-to tonic for folks who preferred their heavy music laced with a devilish, sassy outsider wit – see the entirety of 1992's Bricks Are Heavy LP, a highpoint of both L7's career and the grunge era itself, for details – a combination that's become increasingly hard to find in recent years.
Thankfully, L7 are now back to fill the 'smart and slightly terrifying women rocking harder than the bloke bands they could drink under the table'-shaped void created by their demise in 2001.
Following a hugely successful live reunion that's been ongoing since 2015, the band fuelled the fires of fan anticipation for brand new L7 material via a run of great 'comeback' singles; 2017's fantastically scuzzy anti-Trump rant Dispatch From Mar-a-Lago, 2018's amusingly splenetic I Came Back To Bitch (neither of which are included on the new album, sadly) and the mid-tempo fuzz groover Burn Baby.
The latter was released earlier this year and has been selected as the opening track on Rats itself, which is brought to us via Joan Jett's Blackheart label. Thankfully, Joan and co were there to step in and help guarantee its release after L7 fell victim to the collapse of Pledge Music just as their fantastically successful fan-funded album campaign was reaching its climax.
Despite hitting 128 per cent of their financial goal for the record, Donita, Jennifer, Dee and Suzi now find themselves around $75k in the hole with apparently no chance of receiving any compensation from the nice folks at Pledge Music, who have now 'gone dark' after somehow managing to plough their company into a financial quagmire and are currently staging a much-publicised 'fire sale' aimed at luring in new investors with the promise that they won't actually have to help foot any outstanding debts to artists.
Scatter the rats, indeed.
So what about the record, then? Well, it's a grower. Given shrinking attention spans and the fact that, at this point, L7 are really only competing against their own legacy built on top-drawer albums like Bricks and 1995's also excellent Hungry for Stink, that's where the inclusion of proven attention getters like the aforementioned Dispatch and Bitch might have come in handy in terms of making it a more 'immediate' listen.
However, on the plus side, the trademark sludgy yet melodic L7 sound is still very much to the fore, with the enjoyably thunderous likes of Ouija Board Lies, Proto Prototype, Stadium West (which features an unexpected vocal nod to Julian Cope's psyche-pop classic Sunspots) and Garbage Truck delivering concentrated doses of the band's hard-living informed chuggy/hooky guitar ramalama in spades.
When not inciting mosh pits, L7 also stretch their legs a little musically with the playful, hangover-country fuzz stomp of Murky Water Cafe and Holding Pattern's world-weary pop rock strumming, both of which make for excellent palate cleansers and remind me favourably of the more contemplative moments from the 21st century output of fellow grunge survivors Mudhoney.
Elsewhere, Fighting the Crave and Uppin' The Ice sounds like they might have started off as drum machine-powered demos, with the band then managing to retain a pleasing primitive rap/rock beats-orientated feel in the final products, while laconic rocker Cool About Easy cruises along without breaking much of a sweat as it builds up a mesmerisingly motorik head of steam.
As for the title track, which also closes out the first new L7 album in 20 years, it's a slowly unspooling headbanger that serves as a statement of intent for the band going forward: "turn up the volume and scatter the rats".
Like Donita says, it's not rocket science, it's rock and roll – and it's available now at your friendly local record shop and online via Spotify/iTunes etc.
It's great to have L7 back, so be sure to go and buy Scatter The Rats to help make sure that they stick around for a good long while – maybe they'll even come back to Ireland and play some live shows for us someday.
Well, a man can dream.
Onwards we plough towards homegrown noises of a rock and/or roll nature, in this case the 'heavy pop' sounds pedalled by Belfast vowel-phobic outfit known as THVS.
Michael (guitaring/screaming), Matt (drumming) and Dave (bassing) have made a live video for their tune Neon Demons – which, as you will doubtless already know, featured on last year's Plague Widows EP – cut together by Mr Bob Logan from footage shot at a pair of their recent hometown shows.
It makes for a decent audio-visual exhibition of the band's penchant for repetitive riff-based sludgy bludgeon and indecipherable howling (though helpfully the band have provided the mildly disturbing lyrics to Neon Demons below the video on their YouTube page), a cathartic outpouring of heavily amplified angst guaranteed to scare your cat and annoy the neighbours.
The video also serves as a trailer for what you can expect from the band's upcoming appearance at the final of Bloodstock: Metal 2 The Masses at Voodoo in Belfast on May 17, a battle of the bands competition which will see the winning act securing a coveted slot at this year's Bloodstock festival alongside the likes of Anthrax, Scorpions, Cradle of Filth and Sabaton.
THVS will be competing against Unfold, Elder Druid, Ketos, Lock Horns, Nømadus and Victim Royal on the night, so if you like the sound of Neon Demons and their other stuff then be sure to get down and give them your vote. Doors are at 7pm and admission is £6. THVS will also be playing their own headline show later this month at Fa Joe's in deepest darkest Lurgan on May 24, which will also feature turns by likeminded types Axecatcher and Somnambulist – ticket and door details to be confirmed.