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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

January 4, 1995

Hungry for Stink

Hungry for StinkL7, Hungry for Stink (Slash/Reprise 1994) -- The four-woman band from L.A. known as L7 have released one of the best heavy rock albums in some time with Hungry for Stink. L7, who performed on last year's Lollapalooza tour, have been turning quite a few heads; with their brash attitude and solid musicianship, the ladies are here to stay.

L7 was originally formed in 1985 when singer and guitarist Donita Sparks teamed up with former Sacramento resident Suzi Gardner(also on guitars and vocals). When the band recruited Jennifer Fince (bass and vocals) and Demetra Plaks (drums), the line-up was completed. After steadily gigging around L.A., the foursome caught the attention of Sub Pop Records in Seattle; their first disc, Smell the Magic, soon followed.

When the buzz of an all-girl heavy metal band grew (this ain't no Bangles), the group signed with Slash Records and released 1992's Bricks are Heavy (co-produced by Butch Vig). The follow-up is Hungry for Stink.

Though comparisons to Live Through This by Hole (Geffen) are inevitable, L7 escapes the bitchy, in-your-face attitude of Courtney Love. Instead, they focus on traditional rock themes of anger and alienation on songs like "Can I Run?" ("I'm scared every fuckin' day/I wear my headphones so I can't hear what you say"), and "Fuel my Fire" ("Gotta stack of chips on my shoulder...I made the mistake of trusting you/People like you just fuel my fire").

However, the ladies are not just pissed-off headbangers; as they sing on the refrain to "Shirley Muldowney" (named after the pioneering woman race car driver), "What's a beautiful girl like you doing racing in a place like this?/Winning."

In addition, the band members are involved in issues relating to women's rights and civil liberties, and have played in and organized benefit shows for Rock for Choice, an organization they founded to raise awareness in the rock community about the growing threat to our civil liberties. With help from acts like Joan Jett, Pearl Jam, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rock for Choice has become a full-time project, and L7 now serve as consultants when needed.

Though Tesla may be getting the air play for Bust a Nut, Hungry for Stink's the real McCoy. It's loud, it's brash, and it's rock. Turn it up.

Black 14April's Motel Room, Black 14 (Immortal/Epic 1994) -- April's Motel Room, the pride and joy of Simi Valley, have released their debut album in Black 14. With their focus on rock and metal and the strong songwriting of Tom Kelly, Black 14 is only a springboard to bigger things.

The five members of April's Motel Room, (Tom Kelly on vocals and guitar, John Baffa on percussion, Mike Hoolihan on bass, Sam Nickell on guitar and vocals, and Erin Zidenberg on drums) have been playing together for several years.

The group admits that they started making music out of boredom as much as anything else. "Running away, that's the whole theme of our music," says leadman Kelly. "A confusion and lack of faith. Every generation that grows up looks at the next and says, 'Oh, they're just a bunch of slackers.' The values that people had in the 60s are now just a bunch of crap, which is sad. The whole 'love thing' went out the window and now we've got a whole generation of kids with no identity."

The efforts of producer Matt Hyde (who worked with Porno for Pyros) in diversifying the band's sound are laudable. From the more popish "Get Down Jerry" (about Kelly's first Grateful Dead show) to the metal-influenced "Riverside" to the swamp-metal "Chrysanthemum," there's a fair range on Black 14. Says Kelly, "We have a lot of different styles of music, that's what's cool. A lot of bands, you know what their next album's gonna sound like. I have no idea what our next song is gonna sound like."

In the end, the driving force behind Black 14 is the band's lack of identity. Though living in a land of plenty, the group has seen the darker underside of society. Speaking of their Simi Valley home, Sam Nickell says, "There's nothing to do, it gave us a lot of time to practice. If we grew up in Newport, we might be surfers." Kelly adds, "California's not just this fun-loving, ecology-minded crap. I get a lot of inspiration out of hardship. When things are really going bad for me, writing's usually going really well."

Nobody said rock was always fun. The boys in April's Motel Room are dislocated, and they want you to join them. Take the trip on Black 14.

Continental DriftersContinental Drifters, Continental Drifters (Ichiban 1994) -- Six-piece "supergroup" Continental Drifters have released their debut disc after much buzz in the industry. The band, consisting of Carlo Nuccio on drums and vocals, Mark Walton on bass, Vicki Peterson on guitar and vocals, Susan Cowsill on guitar and vocals, Peter Holsapple on keyboards and vocals, and Robert Macheon lead guitar, features four vocalists and a strong songwriting core that strengthens their country rock sound.

The band's collective musical heritage is long. Peterson was a member of the Bangles; Nucciois a veteran of two Tori Amos albums and an original Subdude; Holsapple was a key ingredient ofThe dBs; Cowsill is a mem ber of the Cowsill family; and Walton was the guitarist for Dream Syndicate and later Steve Wynn.

The group has a countryish sound that resembles The Band; when they slow it down, it's bluesy (as on "Highway of the Saints"); when they speed it up, it's more pop-oriented (as on the swell lead-off single "Get Over It").

While softer pop numbers such as "Mixed Messages" resemble the early 70s Christine McVie-fronted Fleetwood Mac, the disc is redeemed by stronger power-blues numbers such as "A Song for You." Continental Drifters may not redefine pop music, but their talents and pop skills make this album a pleasant find.

-- Randy Krbechek

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