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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

*** 1/2 L7, "The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum," Slash/Reprise

March 02, 1997|Sara Scribner

This snarly L.A. foursome--honed at dives where punk and metal bedded down together--seemed to peak in 1992 with the hit "Pretend We're Dead." L7 slipped with its low-impact 1994 album, "Hungry for Stink." To make matters worse, bassist Jennifer Finch recently left the band. With high-quirk locals like Beck taking over the pop world, the years of L7's brand of cranky guitar crunch seemed a faraway memory.

Hold on to your hats, then, because "The Beauty Process" is a funny/ugly feast, and the best album that L7 has made. Crafty, high-octane, smart, dumb and playful, it's an undeniably infectious offering of unbridled raunch.

Picking up bassist Gail Greenwood from Belly, the group has stripped "The Beauty Process" of the blanket of production that seemed to smother its previous two albums. "Drama" (with downright doo-woppy background vocals) is airy and snappy in spite of its howls. The chugging "Off the Wagon" wraps a politically incorrect evening of bar-hopping around toe-tapping, Stones-like pop-blues.

From a raspy, throat-clearing intro to the boisterous monotony of "Lorenza, Giada, Allesandra," L7 wallows in rollicking, sloppy fun, offering well-honed songs about life's very messy underbelly.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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