Delivering punky, grind-heavy metal, local band L7 rose up in the late '80s to embody the ethos of the Hollywood club Raji's: bare-knuckled rawness combined with sidewalk-smart raunch. Playing the El Rey Theatre on Thursday night, the trouble-plagued quartet proved that, if nothing else, it can take a licking.
Recently, the band lost its original bassist and its record label. Coupled with the uninspiring sales of its 1997 record, "The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum," L7's fame seems to be on the wane.
In response, the group is redefining itself with new songs that are softer and more textured, a far cry from the ugly rush of earlier years. It's a needed change: As much as "Process" is a simple, pure pleasure, the band needs to reveal more layers to keep fans interested.
Some things, however, remained the same. Behind trash-platinum hair, the group clearly relished its showy guitar acrobatics, delivering guttural and subversive tunes that predated Hole, especially the wicked "Pretend We're Dead" and flat-out obnoxious "Shove."
Though the group is clearly pushing to regain its edge, the women, infused with the fresh enthusiasm of former Belly bassist Gail Greenwood, aren't taking themselves too seriously these days. They gathered the John Marshall High School Marching Band onstage to perform L7 song highlights and hauled up a glittery western tap-dancing troupe during "Off the Wagon."
Unfortunately, the sidetracks felt shtick-y and merely deflected attention from what L7 needs to focus on now: the songs.