Los Angeles-based L7 were Riot Grrls before the Riot Grrl movement existed. Though they never shied away from politics, supporting causes like Rock for Choice and Greenpeace, they never let it get in the way of slamming together punk and metal into a crashing good time.
Twenty-three years after L7's inception, singer-guitarist Donita Sparks is as DIY as ever. Along with Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh, Sparks has formed CASH Music, a cutting-edge music company that aims to create a community between artists and fans. Transmiticate, Sparks' solo debut, is one of the first installments in this endeavor. L7 drummer Dee Plakas is back behind the kit for the album's 11 tracks, but in place of the grungy sounds of yore, most of Transmiticate takes a surprising left turn into a mixture of electronic dance and rock that isn't all that edgy but still manages to have a good time more often than not.
The first couple tracks ("Fly Feather Fly" and "Dare Dare") resonate the loudest, combining a quirky, retro-'80s approach with a '00s pop and rock sensibility. But though the rest of the tunes may have their sonic ups and downs, it's clear that Sparks is still the ballsy, slightly neurotic chick she's always been. The mid-tempo "My Skin's Too Thin" tells its subject: "If I didn't have so much class /I'd whisper to you /what you could shove up your ass," while the laid-back rhythm of "Creampuff" belies its lyrical, very un-laid-back exploration of a bad relationship. Best of all is "Need to Numb," a simple, old-fashioned rocker — and too bad it's the only one — with keyboards and crunchy guitar. Uneven as it is, Transmiticate is a pleasurable journey into the psyche of a grrl veteran who can still rip it up when she wants to do so.
Janiss Garza writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.