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L7 Scatter the Rats gets 7/10


L7
Scatter the Rats
Blackheart Records

7/10

Scatter the Rats is the first full-length album from legendary grunge-metal powerhouse L7 in 20 years. Their chaotic and energetic live shows, as well as their early works Smell the Magic and 1992 smash-record Bricks are Heavy, established the four-piece as a formidable, subversive force within the hyper-masculinised rock world that surrounded them.

Producers Norm Block (Jenny Lee, Paper Cranes, Plexi) and Nick Launay (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) manage to capture a lot of what made L7 so brilliant in the first place. On Scatter the Rats they return with their signature sound: distortion-heavy riffs, rip-roaring rhythms and muddy grooves, bolstered by searing social commentary.

Donita Sparks – the indelible force herself – unleashes in the first track Burn Baby, singing about burning at the stake, liars, fakes and frauds and letting go of past grudges.

Suzi Gardner’s throat-shredding vocals, most memorably captured on tracks like Shove and Slide, return on the thudding and ominous Proto Prototype, the cool and melodic Murky Water Café and Cool About Easy, with Gardner characterising the band perfectly as she growls “hard’s how we roll.”

Vocalist-bassist, Jennifer Finch leaves her mark with Garbage Truck, a witty reflection on relationships and co-dependency as she sings, “my love’s like a garbage truck.” It’s a hooky, fast-paced, punk-rock slammer that’s sure to fire-up crowds.

Sonically, the album feels balanced, whole, and showcases the band’s versatility and vulnerability, particularly on Holding Pattern–a laid-back, jangly tune about Sparks’ experiences with depression, and the grind and expectation of everyday life.

However, there are moments on the record that feel shoddy. Some lyrics are lacking in substance and aren’t as politically-charged or hard-edged as one might expect, considering their past works. There’s the odd one that’s unremarkable and bordering on cliché, particularly on tracks like Murky Water Café, with Gardner singing about “free Wi-Fi”, as well as on the final track Scatter the Rats, with Gardner singing: “Some people say pigeons are rats with wings.” Consequently, the song’s overall impact suffers. It’s these small missteps that diminish the rapid-fire momentum and oomph that made L7 such a powerful force in the 90s.

L7’s resurgence might come to a surprise to many, but to their devoted fans, it’s been a long time coming. Though the album isn’t a failure by any means, they’re unable to channel the anger and zing palpable on their 2018 singles, I Came Back to Bitch and Dispatch from Mar-A-Lago. Overall, Scatter the Rats is a punchy, well-balanced, hard-rocking record. It’s a solid return from a band whose punk-rock legacy continues to burn bright and guaranteed to appease fans around the world.

ELLEN DIMITRIOU

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