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March 24, 1992 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-24

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Page 8 -The Michigan Daily- Tuesday, March 24, 1992

L7 is
- free of
SubPop,
hell
by Skot Beal
What does it mean "to rock?" The
verb is extremely ambiguous. Some
folks think that Bon Jovi rocks,
some say Elvis Presley rocked.
Some insist that neither of these are
true, but that L7 definitely rocks. It
seems to me that this last opinion is
the closest to the truth. Whatever it
means "to rock," L7 is extremely
adept at it.
L7 is Suzi Gardner, Jennifer
Finch, Dee Plakas, and Donita
Sparks, and until recently, they were
signed to infamous SubPop records,
one-time home of many of the most
important bands in hard alternative
music today (Nirvana, Soundgarden,
need I say more?). Now they are
signed to Slash records, where they
seem to be much more comfortable.
"SubPop was very good to us but
they really didn't seem to be able to
handle things toward the end," ex-
plains Plakas, L's drummer. "I'm
not trying to put 'em down. It's just
that Slash seems to have a lot of it
together. And it's great because
they're still an indie label, but they
have major distribution. We've al-
ways had people coming up and
complaining to us that they can't
find our record anywhere. -That
won't happen this time."
It seems that many bands that
leave SubPop tend to become
household names soon after. This
trend can scare some lovers of indie
music, but Plakas has an optimistic
view of the phenomenon. She says,
"I'd rather see Nirvana's video five
or six times a day than Warrant or
Van Hagar, which seems to be
dominating MTV. I think the fact
that they're getting all this attention
... I mean, I'm sure they're sick of
it, but it's good that a band like that
can break through. It's also leaving
it open for other alternative bands to
break through."

Jazz or rock? Pick a Slot

by Greg Baise
A fight was about to ensue between
the narrow-minded "hard" rocker
and the equally narrow-minded
"jazzbo." Neither of them would
claim Slot, and wanted to put the
tortuous noises of that most physical,
most beautiful of bands from the
area into the musical camp of the
other.
Fists might have flown, just as in
some overheated apartment, two or
more people might share an ecstatic
bed. The soundtrack to this make-
shift soiree would be the crush and
grind of Slot's first single,
"Grandma" (the song with the video)
b/w "10 Foot Stare." The slice of
colored vinyl (from the Sympathy
label) would be pushing a tiny stereo
around with the finesse of a loving
ruffian.
Slot carries on about its own in-
terests, not too concerned with
strapping itself into a narrow musical
cubbyhole. Rather, the Ann Arbor
quartet keeps itself busy using its
builder's license in sonic guitar-
chitecture (and easily some of el
dopest drum beats around) to create
a versatile synthesis, sometimes a
junction, sometimes a union, of the
four far-reaching musical tastes and
personalities that comprise Slot.
"The band means different things to
different people, even to us, within
the band," drummer Eddy Alterman
explained.
Guitarist Jim MacMillan spoke of
the importance of the live audience
to what occurs on the Slot stage: "If
they're receptive, we tend to jam
more and longer. There's structural
and conceptual elements that have to
be communicated, but everything
else is interpretation of that."
Besides using their steadily ex-
panding roster of "songs by Slot,"
the band has been known to jam on
"standards" by Black Sabbath, Can,
and Judas Priest.
"A lot of our sound has to do
with playing it for the feel, as op-
posed to playing the right notes,"
said guitarist Billy Rivkin. The band
explained that individual members
were free to change their parts as
they see fit.
Bassist and erstwhile vocalist Sue
Lott added to the thoughts of open
interpretation and freedom, saying,
"Words can negate other interpreta-
tions." Lott's and MacMillan's vo-
cals are mixed down, contributing
more texture than poetry. The
singing definitely does not confine

the meanings of particular songs.
One of Slot's main interests
seems to be freedom, as in "free"
jazz, or, perhaps more accurately,
"free rock" (not to be confused with
"freedom rock.") Free rock is the
genre-jumping, genre-transcending
descendent of such events as the
passing of the musical torch from
Karlheinz Stockhausen to a bevy of
'70s Krautrockers and to early '70s
Miles Davis, or the "free-form freak-
outs" of the first Red Krayola
records - walls of noise out of
which beautiful, intense songs would
arise.
Although a guitar-dominated
unit, MacMillan has been introduc-

ing a pocket trumpet into a song or
two at live shows.
As Rivkin summed, "We wanted
to play rock, so we needed guitars."'
"We want to rock," MacMillan
corrected.
"- so we need two guitars"
Rivkin quickly punned.
"And we're too rock as it is,"
MacMillan sighed in mock exaspera-
tion.
SLOT opens for L7 tonight at the
Blind Pig. Tickets are $7.50. Door,
open at 9:30.

L 0 to r, Suzi Gardner, Donita Sparks, Dee Plakas and Jennifer Finch) isn't

really square. They play real rock and
be in 17 when I grow up.
Like L7, for instance? Their new
album, Bricks are Heavy, might just
be the one that carries them into the
alternative scene's spotlight. While
much of it seems more restrained
Their new album ---
might just be the one
that carries them into
the spotlight.
than their last disc, Smell the Magic,
Plakas says that it still "packs that
punch."
But perhaps the factor that will
win L7 a major following is their
extremely fun and energetic live
show. They certainly don't elicit the
type of crowd response that, say,
Fugazi is looking for.
"It's usually chaotic. Most of the
time fun chaos. We do encourage the
audience to go off and have fun. We
don't mind them stage diving or any-

roll and dress cool to boot. I wanna
thing, but most of the time they're
pretty cloddy about it and end up
unplugging our stuff and knocking
mikes over. But for the most part we
prefer the audience to be more enter-
taining than we are."
That could be quite a task for the
audience, given how entertaining it
is to watch L7 "rock" on stage.
While they usually play to an alter-
native crowd and just act like them-
selves, Plakas has some pretty inter-
esting stories to tell about shows
from the band's past.
"We were playing Rikki Racht-
man's (host of MTV's He ad-
bangers' Ball) Cathouse, which is a
club that's every Tuesday and it's
the Guns N' Roses, bolero hat, lip
service jeans crowd," she explains.
"So it's kind of a different scene for
us, but he asked us to play it and we
said, 'Yeah.'
See L7, Page 9

Slot
"10 Foot Stare"/
"Grandma" (7")
Sympathy For The Record Industry
Screw this "Local Band" crutch
that seems to get attached to area ta-
lent. When bands actually put their
music on vinyl, it's time to let the
grooves do the talkin' before my
money starts a walkin'. Once you
pass the light-blue plastic that hou-
ses the latest release from Ann
Arbor's own Slot, what do you get?
The two songs that make up this
45 typify the alternative scene, as of
late. What you won't find are happy,
sappy love songs. What you will
find are tunes filled with anger and a
sense of hopelessness. Yes!
"10 Foot Stare" immediately
brings to mind a combination of half
the grunge bands on SubPop, with a
dash of the Jesus and Mary Chain
thrown in for good measure.
Jim McMillian's angry, distorted
vocals bring to mind many an in-
dustrial band. But rest assured that
synths are probably the furthest
things from the minds of the quartet.
Attacking twin guitars, driving bass
and powerful drums seem to be at
the top of Slot's "Things to do" list.
In contrast, "Grandma" combines
the aggressive rhythm section with
the vocal stylings of the too-cool-
for-words Sue Lott. Unfortunately
her sad, soft, wandering voice is al-
most buried by the driving guitars
and bass.
An analogy for the smothered
voice of the people or a crappy mix?
You decide. Regardless of this flaw
"Grandma" is still so good it proba-
bly should have been on the A-Side.

Many college music "autho-
rities" dog Blues Traveler and the
Black Crowes for being throwbacks
to '70s rock, which in their mindsis
the most evil genre to ever be
bestowed upon mankind. They are
probably the same visionaries who
consider retro-disco crap like the
Happy Mondays innovative and
unsubtle Stones ripoff Primal
Scream alternative.
They probably won't even listen
to the Spin Doctors, since Traveler
harpist John Popper plays on a few
tracks. That's okay, because the
Doctors will do just fine without
them.
Known for years back East as one
the New York area's most energetic
live bands, their second release cogi-
bines elements of classic rock, fuik
and Latin music with unique lyric
writing.
The opener, "Jimmy Olsen s
Blues," is an upbeat dance tune th t
tells the story of the Superman/Lojs
Lane love affair from Jimmy
Olsen's viewpoint. While Super-
man's flying around saving the
world, Jimmy wants Lois to "Come
downtown and stay with me
tonight / I got a pocket full of kryp-
tonite."
The first time you hear it,
however, you may not notice the
story because you're too caught up
in the groove.
A few other tracks are like that
as well, which is what makes
Pocket Full quite an interesting
record. Combining the sounds of
bands like Mott the Hoople; as-
sorted late '70s New York rock
bands (producer Frankie LaRocka
was in the Heartbreakers), and '90s
funk, the Doctors create something
which goes way, way beyond their
predecessors. Although they are not
going to change the world, they are a
talented band with a strong future
in store. -.Anrewv J Cahn

Local band or not, this six min-
utes of music from Slot is a perfect
reason to unload a couple of bucks
and give your CD player a rest.
-Richard Davis

Spin Doctors
Pocket Full of Kryptonite
Epic

I

1

-- .

The
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