S-Tier Songs, Vol. 24

On to another S-Tier song to add to the collection. As always, the main page has the prior entries to the list as well as an explanation of what this is all about. No need for further introduction, it’s time to get pissed.

L7 – Shitlist

Today’s song hails from L7’s third album Bricks Are Heavy. The 1992 record was the band’s first involvement on a major label and was produced by Butch Vig, who a year earlier had produced Nirvana’s Nevermind which changed music forever. The album saw some grunge influence meet with L7’s already established hard ass alt/punk sound and was the group’s vanguard moment.

Shitlist was not a single for obvious reasons, though it was the B-side to Pretend We’re Dead, the band’s most popular single release. As the album and singles took hold through radio and MTV, this song got its fair share of notice. L7 were pretty hard ass as a whole, but Shitlist was another degree of that.

The song is pretty simple musically – it’s got some nasty distortion on a pounding riff and rhythm. The guitar adds some flair here and there, but this song is a vessel to communicate a message rather than provide an exercise in pentetonic scales. Donita Sparks delivers a vocal with a combination of snarl and disaffection to perfectly fit the nasty tone of the music.

Lyrically this is a blatantly obvious song – we’re pissed off, and there’s a list of those who did the foul deeds that led to this state. There’s maybe only 20 different words used in the lyrics but everything works so well to communicate the message – you’ve made my shitlist. It’s one of the first songs that comes up when people talk about “angry songs” or things like that, Shitlist has truly made its mark in that regard.

There are no real metrics to evaluate in terms of Shitlist’s success. The album Bricks Are Heavy was last certified at 327,000 copies sold in the year 2000. I’d wager that it’s moved a few more since then and maybe a re-certification would see it get past the gold threshold, but I can’t say for sure. The song didn’t get MTV play because, well, just look at the title.

But Shitlist did strike a chord with music-listening America in the early 1990’s. While the L7 singles like Pretend We’re Dead and Monster got video airplay, people in the know would make sure to tell you to get the damn album so you could hear Shitlist in all its glory. Word of mouth was still important in the pre-Internet days and that’s largely how a song with a controversial name like this would get out there.

Shitlist did get another boost from appearances in several movie soundtracks. The song was in quite a few movies, actually, though to be honest I’m not sure I want to go deep diving on some of those early ’90’s movies to recall the flicks more specifically. But Shitlist did land a very memorable part in one movie scene.

In the opening scene of 1994’s Natural Born Killers, the movie’s main couple Mickey and Mallory Knox are in a diner out in the middle of nowhere. A local patron starts putting moves on Mallory. Her response is to go to the jukebox and put on Shitlist, then beat the shit out of her harasser. Mickey joins in and the couple kill everyone in the diner, except for one they leave alive to report that Mickey and Mallory were responsible.

This is the scene, don’t count on it being upon YouTube for a long time.

The movie released just after L7 had released their next album Hungry For Stink. I don’t know if the movie scene had a huge impact on sales of that or Bricks Are Heavy, but the way that scene is still vividly recalled today, I’d guess that it had some influence.

L7 would continue on through the 1990’s but run out of steam by the turn of the millennium and call it quits in 2001. They would reconvene in 2014 and have been touring and releasing music since, with a renewed interest in a band that many felt didn’t quite get their full due in their first run.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Shitlist is simple, heavy and powerful. Its message cuts true and is something every person on the planet can identify with, someone’s made our shitlists at some point in time, even the most zen of folks. L7 were known for bringing the nasty when they wanted to, and Shitlist was another extension of that. Its memorable tie to the scene in Natural Born Killers still resonates with viewers who may not have ever bought an L7 album in the ’90’s. This was not a band to mess with, and Shitlist was the calling card of that.

6 thoughts on “S-Tier Songs, Vol. 24

  1. They had some promo in Australia and toured here but I never committed.

    But as soon as you mentioned Natural Born Killers and the Diner scene, I was like yeah, I remember vaguely the song.

    So off to Spotify I went and man today looks like it’s my grunge day.

    Liked by 1 person

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