Review Summary: After making five fun and lovable albums, L7 seems to have run out of ideas.
Throughout the 90s, L7 released one consistent grunge album after another. All of which were filled with engaging riffs, memorable lyrics, raw passion and fury. In other words, L7 was a high quality riot grrrl grunge band who knew exactly what they were doing. However, all of this consistency went to a screeching halt with their 1999 release of Slap-Happy.
To understand why Slap-Happy was so much worse than their previous efforts, it's best to first examine the album that preceded it. 1997's The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum consisted mainly of straightforward riffs and a diverse array of lyrical content. It also experimented, for the first time in L7's career, with mellow and chilled out songs. While all four of these songs on The Beauty Process were successful in enhancing the album, it was evident that there'd be more to come on future releases.
So two years later, along comes Slap-Happy. Contained within the album is a collection of mainly uninspired guitar lines, overdone distortion, and worst of all: some of the stupidest topics for songs in their entire career by far. When it comes to the guitar in the upbeat songs, most of the riffs are more than just forgettable, they're incredibly similar to one another. They heavily rely on being fuzzy and loud and nothing else. As for the mellower songs: they come off as incredibly boring and forced - as if they were sad skeletons of their counterparts on The Beauty Process. Luckily some decent heavy bass guitar can be found on a few tracks, but in others it's hard to hear the bass at all. If anything is rewarding about the instrumentation on this album, it's that the drums are up to L7's normal quality standard and that "Lackey" has cool guitar fills.
Speaking of “Lackey,” some of the songs on here contain some of L7’s worst ideas ever. Lyrics like “I want a lackey/Could be you/My friend has one and I want one too” beg the question that L7 has seriously no idea what to write about; most of these lyrics are forced as hell. With that said, no lyrics on here are more laughably bad than those of "Freeway." The fact that L7 thought it was a good idea to include outbursts of "ch-check check check it out" and "peace!" in one of their songs is incredibly disheartening and makes it seem like L7 wasn't even putting in much effort. What's worse is that the song also tries to incorporate electronic beats randomly at the end. Surprisingly, the closer "Mantra Down" is a heavy masterpiece filled with wild vocals. If the rest of the album were even remotely like it, it'd be just as much of a winner as their first 5 releases.
Slap-Happy just sounds like L7 has lost their mojo; whatever made them great before seems to have dwindled. Don't let this mistake keep you from trying one of their first five albums, they're as fun as punkish-grunge can get. Somehow L7 went from creative badasses with guitars to a group of women out of ideas.
Album highlights: "On My Rockin' Machine", "Little One", "Mantra Down"