Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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In theory, rock fans are pleased as punch about the long overdue upsurge in female-dominated groups. But in their secret hearts they're suspicious. Take the Breeders, of Cannonball fame. Aren't they kind of, well, light? A novelty? Really--do they rock?

L7 rock. Spurred by an uncommonly quick and muscular drummer, Dee Plakas, this all-female quartet rocked on 1990's punky Smell the Magic. They rocked plenty on 1992's better manicured Bricks Are Heavy. And on the loud new Hungry for Stink (Slash/Reprise), they rock harder still. Let suspicious souls mutter about the grunge bandwagon--the new album's buzzing textures and heavy hooks have been prime weapons in their sonic arsenal for years. Sure L7 helped found Rock for Choice and aren't afraid of the three-syllable F-word. But after eight years on the club circuit, it's clear that they live to rock. The lyrics matter whether they're about fear, anger, or triumph (race car driver Shirley Muldowney is their designated speed queen). But whether the surface style is pop, punk, or metal, what I love about this album is how many ways it finds to push the beat.

On Viva Zapata! (C/Z), another all-female quartet, Seattle's Seven Year Bitch, show similar commitment but less versatility and power. They get points for attitude. Maybe when their three years of gigging get closer to the promised seven they'll have skills to match.

Fast Cuts: Monkey Hips and Rice: The Five Royales Anthology (Rhino), which documents the surprising raunch and soul of r&b's first great guitar band, and the Drifters' Greatest Hits 1953-1958: Let the Boogie Woogie Roll (also Rhino), which showcases the frankly sexy falsetto of Clyde McPhatter, are the two-CD retrospectives the two greatest doowop groups deserve.

Playboy, Aug. 1994

July 1994 Sept. 1994