Twenty years after the band closed their breakthrough era with an indefinite hiatus, Los Angeles grunge-punk pioneers L7 staged a comeback with their seventh album, Scatter the Rats. Issued on longtime friend Joan Jett's Blackheart Records, Rats is a nostalgic return to the '90s, cramming crunchy guitars and lurching rhythms into an updated stew of nasty punkabilly bounce, heavy metal muscle, and no-frills rock & roll. Understandably, the ferocity and mayhem of their peak years has since been smoothed out and their approach is somewhat matured, especially with cleaner vocals that reveal co-founder Donita Sparks' relatively polished singing voice. And yet, the ladies still snarl and pack a vicious punch. Alongside Sparks, the classic lineup of Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch, and Dee Plakas tear through each track with a familiar snarling attitude and sludgy assault. "Burn Baby" resurrects the spirit of their biggest hit, "Pretend We're Dead," while "Fighting the Crave" struts with confidence and sensuality. Other highlights such as the hulking beast "Proto Prototype" and the surf's-up blast "Stadium West" are pure fun, keeping the body moving and the head bobbing (or banging). Even on the less rollicking tracks, the band maintain the groove and energy, making a pit stop in a filthy dive bar for "Murky Water Cafe" and ripping open the pit with "Ouija Board Lies" and "Uppin' the Ice." Considering the lifetime between releases, Scatter the Rats is a gift to both diehards and the band itself, equal parts fan service and a welcome reunion for the quartet. Rats also manages to be the most well-crafted and catchy L7 album since 1992's classic Bricks Are Heavy, reviving their catalog after the band sputtered out in the late '90s with the uneven The Beauty Process and Slap-Happy. While nowhere near as ferocious as the band in their heyday, Scatter the Rats is a triumphant return packed with odd comforts and familiar memories. Two decades later, L7 have aged quite gracefully, no matter how unfitting that word may be when describing this ever-raucous crew.
Scatter the Rats Review
by Neil Z. Yeung