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L7 - Smell the Magic: 30th Anniversary Edition (Sub Pop Records)

22 August 2020

Back in 1985, L7 were the game-changer in music. Formed by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, they came to typify nineties genres, they were Grunge before it became a living thing, and they were Riot Grrrl when nobody else was. An all-female outfit that combined punk, with a brash rock sound, and projected with a sneering delivery. Staying together for six albums, L7 called it a day at the turn of the century. They were gone but not forgotten, that was until 2014, when they re-emerged, and last year came their seventh studio album. Scatter The Rats, released in May 2019, proved the passing of time had not eroded any of their original, incendiary style. The album rightly received acclaim, and turned the spotlight back on the band and their legacy. And now we have something to celebrate. 

On September 18th, comes a 30th Anniversary edition of their second cracker Smell The Magic. After thirty years, this is an album that remains as relevant as ever, and now sounds just as well as it did when it influenced a generation. The sound is updated but the message is still the same, if not slightly clearer. Everything is understandably written from a female perspective, though evident in that songwriting is a maturity and directness that wasn’t fully formed on their self-titled debut. Also, melodies are now intertwined around the distortion, making Smell The Magic more accessible and downright enjoyable. For example the tongue-in-cheek brilliance that is “Fast and Frightening”-
“Down at the creek smoking pot,
 She eats the roach so she don’t get caught.
 Throws her mini off in the halls,
 Got so much clit she don’t need no balls.” 

Smell The Magic did not so much change attitudes, but created new ones. Tearing down the boundaries, and the perspectives of female rock bands that we had become inclined to. This is not feel-good music, it is music to empower, to summon a revolution, and for that L7 should be admired. Songs such as the classic “Shove” (see below) breathe with a new life, updated for the 21st century but still anchored in the time. Though it is a frightening sign that equal rights anthems such as “Just Like Me” are still very relevant three decades later. While “Till the Wheels Fall Off” sounds as explosive as it first did, with a lot more of an edge to it, and that descending riff that is just heaven. 

The formats for this reissue includes orange neon vinyl (oh yeah!), black vinyl, compact disc, and bundle offers include the “Fake Friends” feat. Joan Jett single on 7-inch vinyl. The album was never released on vinyl first time round, it did however appear as an Ep, but not fully formed like this. Overall Smell The Magic  is something worthwhile, and worth revisiting, for newer fans it is absolutely essential. 

To Pre-Order: 

Track Listing:
2.Fast and Frightening
3.(Right On) Thru
5.Till the Wheels Fall Off
7.Packin’ a Rod
8.Just Like Me
9.American Society