Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Great Major Label Flame-Outs: L7's 'The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum'!


Perhaps no other all-female band in the history of rock & roll has gotten a rawer deal than Los Angeles proto-grunge outfit L7, who, by 1997, were essentially pushed out of a moving car by their label, Slash Reprise Records, after the band had rammed their heads against the proverbial wall for nearly a decade.

Despite scoring a sizable alternative radio hit with "Pretend We're Dead", from the band's 1992 Butch Vig-produced major label debut Bricks Are Heavy, none of the band's three albums for Slash/Reprise cracked the Top 100.

For a little perspective, I always like to note that hair metal act Vixen's doomed second album, Rev It Up, peaked at #52 on the same chart only two years prior and placed two singles in the Top 100. Can you name one? Didn't think so.

As for L7's final major label effort, considering the quality of the material assembled for the effort and their dedication to constant touring and promotion, one could hardly blame the band for not so much losing the will to rock, put tiring of the piss-poor return on their investment of time and energy.

Hence, by the time the band convened to begin sessions for The Beauty Process, not all members were on-board for another go at the windmill.



Most notably, bassist Jennifer Finch left the band under the guise of "returning to college", but, within a year, resurfaced on A&M Records as a member of alt. pop outfit OtherStarPeople.

With her position in the band filled by newcomer Greta Brinkman, L7 began cutting tracks at Sound City in Van Nuys with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo, but even Brinkman's availability during the sessions was spotty at best forcing guitarist Donita Sparks to play bass on several tracks.

Despite the somewhat tumultuous circumstances of their existence at the time, The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum boasts the band's best and most consistent batch of songs as well as a production that practically reaches out of the speakers and grabs your wallet.

As if that weren't enough to ensure commercial success, the powers that be at Warner/Reprise helped secure the coveted opening slot on Marilyn Manson's North American tour, putting them in front of tens of thousands of new faces every night.

On the downside, though, one of the album weaker cuts, "Off The Wagon", was chosen as the lone single, inexplicably bypassing the two most obvious choices ("Drama" and "The Masses Are Asses").



Adding further insult to injury, the band chose to spend their video budget on a full-length promotional film "directed" by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novaselic that, quite frankly, nobody saw.

This writer managed to catch the band's performance at The Metro mere days after the album's release and, though the band put on a stellar show captured by the JBTV crew, in speaking with the band after the show, it seemed they were already resigned to the album's lack of commercial prospects.



How has the album aged in the 20+ years since its release, you ask?

While it only reached #160 on the charts in is first month of release, to my ears, it sounds like an album that should have at least cracked the Top 50 and gone gold.

After all, if you're a label with the distribution and promotional pipeline of a Warner/Reprise and you still can't sell an album like this by the truckload in the age of Soundgarden and STP, then you should probably stick to Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner cartoons.

While the band would continue releasing music for a few more years after parting ways with Slash/Reprise, they eventually pt the band on indefinite hold until the classic line-up reformed in 2014.

As with many bands who did not get their much-deserved payday on first go-round, the band has been a solid, dependably inspired presence on the rock festival circuit ever since and even managed to release a new full-length in 2019 on Blackheart Records called Scatter The Rats.

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