Could L7 be . . . mellowing? Nah--it just seemed that way at the Black Cat Tuesday night. The hirsute Hollywood-based grungers' performance didn't spur as much head-banging and stage-diving as past appearances, but it retained enough long, loud and lumbering elements to please the group's faithful.
The softer, nearly pleasant, pop timbres emerged from the quartet's focus on their latest recording, "Slap Happy," released on the band's newly formed Wax Tadpole label. Guitarists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner alternated lead and backup singing roles on the relatively perky new tunes "Human," "Livin' Large" and "Lackey," which largely do away with the band's usual Black Sabbathesque core riffing. More striking were "War With You" and the sardonic "Stick to the Plan," which fused melodic sense with dark power chords.
Drummer Dee Plakas consolidated effectively with new bassist Janet Tanaka on "Shove," "Fast and Frightening" and "Bad Things," creating textures almost as thick as the group's black eyeliner. By the time an hour had passed, there could be little doubt it was the same old L7: boisterous, gaudy and kinda dull.
Like the recent De La Hoya vs. Trinidad title bout, Tuesday's under-card may have been superior to the main event. Ink & Dagger played a twisting set of grim art metal, and Arlington trio Vanity Champ impressed early arrivals with some gritty rock, complete with shifting dynamics and glam-guitar muscle.