L7’s Bricks are Heavy came out twenty-five years ago today in 1992, the same year that I became a teenager. Needless to say, when I first heard the Los Angeles based quartet they were a goddamn revelation; my Midwest-living, Catholic school-attending ignorant ass didn’t even realize that women who liked heavy music existed, let alone women who played heavy music.
While I have to admit that my fascination with the fact that L7 were an all-female metal band is what initially drew me to them, gender quickly became irrelevant when I bought Bricks are Heavy at my local Disc Jockey (in one of those sweet cardboard long-boxes, which I cut up and plastered on the inside of my school locker), brought it home, put it on my sweet little all-in-one stereo (thanks mom!) and subsequently had my ears blown back by an album that was as infectious as it was aggressive. There were hints of everything from the Ramones to Motorhead to Black Sabbath in the band’s down and dirty sound and it was quite unlike anything I’d heard before (or since, for that matter).
If I remember correctly, L7 were being marketed as part of the grunge/alt rock movement, but to my ears they were a metal band through and through (with just a hint of punk). Butch Vig’s crunchy, dry-as-a-bone production made them sound heavy as hell and their songwriting approach on tracks such as “Wargasm” “Everglade” and “Slide” brought a thrashiness to the table that even the heaviest grunge bands lacked, while the likes of “One More Thing” and “Shitlist” were gloriously Sabbathy slabs of sludge.
Of course, one cannot discuss Bricks are Heavy without mentioning “Pretend We’re Dead.” The strength of this song propelled the band to number one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and 160 on the Billboard Top 200. This song became the album’s “single” for good reason; it is in my opinion one of the catchiest rock songs of the era, one of those perfect songs that I still get as much joy out of spinning today as I did two-and-a-half decades ago (goddammit I’m old). That it is probably the least heavy song on the album only speaks to L7’s songwriting excellence, showing that they could successfully bend their sound in just about any direction they chose.
Bricks are Heavy remains one of my favorite albums of the 1990s. Although sounding very much like a product of its era, it has at the same time managed to age gracefully, likely due to L7’s knack for penning timelessly excellent songs that were heavy, catchy and fun, with just the right amount of good old fashioned bad attitude. It seems that the album isn’t talked about as often as some of the other classics of the time, but it sure as hell should be.