Best tunes of 1992: #23 L7 “Pretend we’re dead”

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Try as you might, you can’t really pigeonhole L7. Sure, they came out of the punk rock and alternative aesthetic. They came to prominence in the age of grunge and their fashion choices, or lack thereof, certainly had them placed amongst the boys club of those bands. Others will lump them in with the Riot Grrl movement, especially because of their outspokenness and their avid work in support of pro choice. However, the group predated all of these. And there was no conforming or pretension with L7. Nor were they strangers to controversy. They were true originals.

Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner formed L7 in 1985. The quartet was completed in their most prominent years by Jennifer Finch and Demetra Plakas. By 1992, the group was releasing their third album, “Bricks are heavy”, on Slash records. Produced by Butch Vig (of “Nevermind” fame), the album did very well with the alternative rock set by upping the noise, grime, and by being generally unapologetic. There were three well received singles released from the album, the first of which was “Pretend we’re dead”, the subject of our post today and my introduction to the band. I remember it being played on the regular on CFNY, Toronto’s alt-rock station, which came in pretty clear in my small hometown, east of that city. However, I’m reasonably sure that before I heard it there, it appeared on a mixed tape made by my friend Tim.

“Pretend we’re dead” is loud and pure angsty rock and roll. In fact, it almost feels to me like a song Joan Jett would’ve come up with if the 90s were her era. The guitars are dirty and dripping with sludge and yet they race along, amped with jet fuel. The drums crash and the vocals sing words that seem meaningless, but beg for fist pumping and head banging. Yes!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Vinyl love: The Beths “Future me hates me”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Beths
Album Title: Future me hates me
Year released: 2018
Year repressed: 2019
Details: Magenta vinyl, 6th pressing

The skinny: I saw quite a few great sets at this year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest, some of which surprised me, but none more so than the Saturday afternoon performance by New Zealand’s The Beths. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of them before. I always do my homework before going to music festivals so that I have no regrets about missing bands that I should’ve seen but hadn’t heard of beforehand. The Beths’ debut album (this one) was on heavy Spotify rotation in the weeks leading up to seeing them live but their set was just so great, so fun, and so enthralling, that I found myself heading to the merch tent afterwards to pick up this record. When I found out it was magenta coloured after I opening it up at home, it was just like double icing on the cake. This is one fantastic album and I cannot wait for more material from them to come my way.

Standout track: “Future me hates me”

Best tunes of 2002: #20 Suede “Lonely girls”

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In 1992, Suede (known as The London Suede here in North America) was seen as the “best new band in Britain” by many in the music press and this was before they had even released a full-length album. Ten years later, the band would release their fifth album, “A new morning”, so titled to signify that they were looking at it as a new start. The previous four albums had all done very well commercially in Suede’s native country. In fact, they were seen as one of Britpop’s big four, along with Blur, Pulp, and Oasis. However, the band’s frontman, Brett Anderson, had not been clean for much of the decade and described the difficult recording process for this fifth album as the only work that hadn’t been informed by heavy drug use. Unfortunately, for the group, it would go on record as their least successful, commercially and critically, an album they would later regret releasing and perhaps precipitated their dissolution.

Personally, I didn’t think “A new morning” all bad, a bit uneven and forced, perhaps, but it definitely had some good tracks. Never released as a single, “Lonely girls” is still one of my favourite latter day tunes from the band, even counting the ones on the three albums Suede has issued since reuniting in 2010. The lyrics of the song read almost like a response to The Nails’ classic “88 lines about 44 women”, except maybe with not so many lines and not so many women (or girls).

“Stephanie stares at the posters on the wall
Tina sits and waits for a telephone call
Maxine mixes alcohol with polythene and paint”

Brett Anderson is also not listing these women to brag of his sexual exploits or to remember past loves. This is a call out to loneliness and broken dreams and realizing that life is not necessarily what the glamour magazines are trying to sell us. It is all grown up, holding the scuzz and dirt at arms’ length. The rough and epic guitar rock of “Dog man star” seems like ages ago, Bernard Butler just a memory, and what we have left is the hip shaking arpeggios played on acoustic guitar, gentle washes of synths, and Anderson playing at sage adult, sharing wisdom earned in the gutters. The production is crisp and clean and almost too easy to listen to.

But I love it all the same.

Yup. It appeals to the same part of me that has me laughing along to every joke in a Hugh Grant rom com and I’m not afraid who knows it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.