L7 — Bricks Are Heavy

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L7 - Bricks Are Heavy cover
4.43 | 5 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1992

Filed under Heavy Alternative Rock
By L7

Tracklist

1. Wargasm (2:40)
2. Scrap (2:53)
3. Pretend We're Dead (3:53)
4. Diet Pill (4:21)
5. Everglade (3:18)
6. Slide (3:37)
7. One More Thing (4:07)
8. Mr. Integrity (4:06)
9. Monster (2:56)
10. Shitlist (2:55)
11. This Ain't Pleasure (2:42)

Total time 37:28

Line-up/Musicians

- Donita Sparks / guitar, vocals
- Suzi Gardner / guitar, vocals
- Jennifer Finch / bass, vocals
- Demetra Plakas / drums

About this release

Slash Records, April 14, 1992

Thanks to Necrotica for the addition and Vim Fuego, Unitron for the updates

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Reprise / Wea 1992
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Unitron
L7 - Bricks are Heavy

"Bricks are Heavy" is the third studio album by grunge/punk/heavy metal band L7. Starting out as mainly a punk rock band with some heavy edges, L7 became one of the leading bands in the grunge scene by the time they released "Bricks are Heavy". However, in recent years, they've seemed to have lost a lot of their popularity which is a shame. Personally, this is easily a grunge classic.

Combining the heavy metal of bands like Motorhead and Girlschool with classic punk rock into a punchy aggressive grunge sound, L7 is easily one of the most metal-oriented grunge bands to my ears along with Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. The album mostly got popular due to the radio-friendly 'Pretend We're Dead', which I personally find to be the weakest on the album. I find the strongest songs to be the heaviest ones as the album opens up with one of my favorite tracks, 'Wargasm', which begins with a classic-sounding metal riff. Most of the album has a great balance of fast punk-metal tracks and slower and more punchy songs like 'Scrap' and 'Diet Pill'. The songs of the latter really slither along and pound the riffs into your head. The former also get stuck in your head especially with the spit-fire speed of 'This Ain't Pleasure' and 'Mr. Integrity', which are probably my favorites on the album. The latter has some interesting tribal percussion that actually fits nicely.

Guitarists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner and bassist Jennifer Finch all contribute lead vocals on the album, and they all perfectly fit the music they play. They all have aggressive sometimes snarl-y vocals, which is perfect for punk-y heavy metal and grunge. Jennifer Finch especially gives a great vocal performance on the slow melancholy 'One More Thing'. Gardner and Sparks both really have a snarl to their vocals, especially in the last three songs on the album. I personally have a difficult time not banging my head to the combination of punk-infused metal riffs and Gardner's take-no-bullshit vocal attack in 'This Ain't Pleasure'.

Overall, "Bricks are Heavy" is definitely an essential grunge album along with other classics like "Dirt" and "BadMotorFinger". However, "Bricks are Heavy" is an album I highly recommend to any fans of heavier punk, grunge, and metal. If you enjoy any of those three genres, do yourself a favor and check it out. Hope you found this review helpful.

Feel free to comment!
Vim Fuego
What do you know about L7? C’mon, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? It’s four girls right? Well done. Makes no difference to the music though. Get past that simple, yet distracting fact, and what are you left with? Well, it’s dirty, grungy punk/rock.

Far too much was made of the “all-girl” gimmick when this album first hit the shelves. This band was no gimmick. It’s not like L7 was a manufactured band, like Vixen or Cycle Sluts From Hell, nor were any of the members even vaguely pretty or sexy. What this band did which very few other all girl bands of the time did was play their own instruments and write their own music. Influenced by west coast punk and the blossoming grunge scene, in particular Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ album, L7 wrote simple songs with big riffs, pithy lyrics and gang vocals. Thankfully, all four band members have deep voices, so there’s no annoying banshee shrieks here. If anything, they all sing flat.

OK, so the female thing does raise its head occasionally. “Diet Pill” in particular is very pre-menstrual, bloated, lethargic and cranky. “One More Thing” is like a lingering migraine which just won’t fuck off, droning through your skull. “Everglade” targets big idiots in mosh pits who do their best to hurt people instead of just enjoying the music. “Wargasm” features a sample of the world’s most annoying woman, Yoko Ono, screaming her head off, and deals with the male preoccupation with fighting and violence.

It’s hard to pick a highlight. “Shitlist” and “Wargasm” stick out because of the anger, “Mr Integrity” sounds like The Cramps on steroids, while “Slide” and “This Ain’t Pleasure” race by at high velocity.

Infinitely superior to the two L7 albums which followed, ‘Bricks Are Heavy’ is one of the few albums of its era to successfully combine punk and grunge, and maintain the vigour of the former and still retain the bleak realism of the latter.
Necrotica
L7 were never really much of a riot grrrl band, no matter how many people tried to lump them into that category. Sure, their music had the same themes of female empowerment and sexuality, but the music is where things really differed. While they started with a more hardcore punk-tinged musical framework like their contemporaries, the 90s saw L7 enter a new phase with more metal and grunge influences. Suddenly, the band seemed closer to Alice in Chains and Melvins than they did to Bikini Kill or Bratmobile. Plus, let's face it: L7's focus was more on quality music than simply pushing a message to a male-dominated music scene... or at least there was more of a balance. These were ladies that not only clung closely to their feminist ideals, but made kickass albums in the process. Of course, their stage antics also played a part in their success during their 90s heyday. Guitarist/singer Donita Sparks was usually the main cause of the controversy, particularly in 1992; first she pulled down her pants during a performance on the British variety show The Word, and then she threw her tampon at the audience during the Reading Festival after the audience threw mud at the band. Her words were classic: "Eat my used tampon, fuckers!"

Needless to say, 1992 was the biggest year for this quartet. After the successful sophomore album Smell the Magic, L7 decided to make their sound heavier and more sludgy for their breakthrough record Bricks Are Heavy. Just as its popularity and acclaim might prove, this really is the band's finest recording; it has the best mixture of all the band's sounds and eras, as well as having the most diversity in its songwriting. Punk, heavy metal, and grunge are all given equal attention throughout, and so is every member for that matter. Just like with The Beatles or Queen, every member of L7 sings at some point on this album, three of the four members being featured prominently on lead vocals. This is, in part, why Bricks Are Heavy works so well... the band always feels like a single unit. The guitar/guitar/bass/drums setup is quite standard, but everybody gets a chance to shine. Plus, the lack of flashy instrumentation actually works to this band's advantage because of this tight chemistry.

Consistency is easily this album's biggest strength. From the tight riffing of the punk-influenced "Wargasm" to the off-kilter 9/8-time playing of closer "This Ain't Pleasure," everything is where it should be. Each member who sings is also the writer of her own respective song as well, each having her own vocal and songwriting quirks. My personal favorite is bassist Jennifer Finch; her songs "Everglade" and power ballad "One More Thing" are two of the most inspired tunes on this thing, particularly the former with its instantly mosh-worthy main riff. Of course, the song that people remember the most from Bricks Are Heavy is Donita Sparks' big hit "Pretend We're Dead." The song does provide a nice opportunity to relax after the one-two punch of "Wargasm" and "Scrap," this time focusing more on melody than outright heaviness.

Complementing all of this is a nice helping of tough and pissed-off vocals, definitely a more punk-inspired aspect of the band. Political issues ("Wargasm"), the aforementioned female empowerment ("Everglade," numerous others), freeloaders and lazy people (Suzi Gardner's anthem "Slide"), stress and anxiety ("One More Thing"), and other lyrical themes are addressed, all conveyed through very aggressive anthems that don't tend to hold these opinions back. But again, what makes it all work is how convincing the musicianship and songwriting are. No matter what side of each matter you sit on, you can always rely on the heavy and energetic musical accompaniments to keep the enjoyment going; this is certainly more than I can say of some of the riot grrrl bands I've heard. L7's presence and charisma on Bricks Are Heavy are very rare for the grunge movement they were part of, and make each song a treat... even if not every song completely works.

The only (somewhat) glaring problem is that the album may be a little too consistent. The music blends together occasionally, and the power chords and constant grungy distortion gets a bit old from time to time. But eventually this issue starts to leave you when you give the album repeated listens. Bricks Are Heavy has an enormous amount of replay value... not just for the little nuances that may have been missed the first time around, but for just the sheer enjoyment of the each riff, each of Demetra Plakas' inspired drum fills, each of Suzi's fun solos, and just the overall creativity of each tune. If you're even remotely interested in grunge, punk, or metal music, Bricks Are Heavy is almost essential. These angry no-nonsense babes are gonna kick your ass, but you'll want to keep getting back up and taking the punishment all over again.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

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