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Take a whiff, if you can stand it

You probably shouldn't buy this album.

Don't buy it if you're looking for Nietzschean _ or even Courtney Love-ish _ philosophical insights. Don't buy it if you think riot grrrls are, like, really cool and stuff. Don't buy it if you expect stylistic experimentation a la Soundgarden's Superunknown.

Buy it only if you want to rock the grinding, shrieking, old-fashioned L7 way.

On Hungry for Stink, L7 delivers just what you'd expect: Donita Sparks still screams well, and the rest of her vocals are still as idiosyncratically annoying or brilliant, depending on your tastes, as ever. As on 1992's Bricks Are Heavy, the band's lyrics range from pretty interesting (Shirley is a sometimes furious, sometimes funny tribute to ground-breaking drag racer Shirley Muldowney) to pretty dumb ("Plastic people with their plastic lives"), but the words are seldom what's important about L7.

What is important is the steady rhythm section overlaid with Sparks' and Suzi Gardner's solid-metal guitars. This is reliable'90s punk: gritty, nasty, defiantly unconcerned with the hunger for wide acceptance that seems to be consuming such bands as Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots.

The main knock against Hungry for Stink is that it lacks a track as pop-friendly as Pretend We're Dead or Wargasm from Bricks Are Heavy, a criticism that ignores Andres, a catchy little tune that's about, well, some guy, I guess; Questioning My Sanity, which is the most perceptive cry from the heart by a depressive since Pere Ubu's Heart of Darkness _ and thus an exception to the rule about L7 lyrics; and the surf-roller-rink giddiness of Riding With a Movie Star. All three would fit in easily on radio stations with an edge.

Hungry for Stink isn't a giant leap forward, but it could be a respectable step toward the metal mainstream acceptance L7 still deserves.

AUDIO REVIEW

L7: Hungry for Stink (Slash) +++

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