It’s been two decades since L7’s last album — long enough for the grunge-punk heroes to add plenty of new names to their already expansive shitlist. On Scatter the Rats, they rail against fakes, frauds, liars, doubters and, of course, rats. “Don’t need your Venn diagram,” vocalist-guitarist Suzi Gardner sings over a grungy guitar line on “Proto Prototype,” “We’ve always known how to slam.”
That scrappy savoir-faire guides them through 11 punky downer rockers on Scatter the Rats, an album that recalls their early Nineties high-water marks, Smell the Magic and Bricks Are Heavy, thanks to pile-driving guitar riffs and quirky ear candy. It opens with vocalist-guitarist Donita Sparks declaring everyone will burn at the stake on the surf-metal rager “Burn Baby,” complete with deceptively sweet “ah-ah-ah” backup vocals; later they throw a “boi-oi-oi-oing” into “Garbage Truck,” in which vocalist-bassist Jennifer Finch offersw “My love’s like a garbage truck.”
Elsewhere, Gardner asks, “What’s so cool about easy? … Hard’s how we roll,” over a muscular riff, complete with ironically easygoing beach-rock tambourine, serenely sings about workaday struggles on “Holding Pattern” over a jangly riff. The band even plays crying cat sounds on their guitars in the middle of “Scatter the Rats.” The only misstep is “Murky Water Café,” a swamp rocker with a swinging groove that Gardner ruins by singing lyrics about how this groovy joint has free Wi-Fi and parking validation, making the song a despised step-cousin of that Nick Cave song about Hannah Montana. Also, at four minutes, it’s one of the album’s longer tracks, which is a literal drag since L7’s secret weapon has always been their momentum. But that speed bump doesn’t derail the record.
On Scatter the Rats, L7 return as a bloodthirsty gang (just check the L7-branded motorcycle club leather jackets they wear on the cover) and live up to their legacy. Last year, they released a heavy single, “I Came Back to Bitch,” and even though it didn’t make the cut on their comeback album, it’s the mantra they live up to on Scatter the Rats. They’re back, they’re pissed, they won’t be ignored.