There’s gotta be a better way to describe the rawness of the unrefined rock & roll that rose to popularity in the 1990s than ‘grunge’. At any rate, L7 was an absolute force to be reckoned with back in those days. Their breakthrough cut ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ was an anthem of subversion, revolution, sex, Generation X’s subversive revolution of the sexes. It’s one of those songs that’re delivered with a simple superficiality cloaking an inner profundity. The song has real staying power to the extent that it’s just as sonically effective in 2017 as it was in 1992 which is pretty phenomenal, albeit somewhat anomalous, just because they produced dozens of equally strong and affecting songs over the span of their five album career.
Like the band itself, ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ has an overall presentation that’s comparatively unorthodox in that it doesn’t necessarily abide by a typical formulaic documentary arrangement, though the story is still told chronologically. Comprised almost completely of archive material—early gigs, travels, recording sessions, extensive touring, interviews, intermittent general time-killing fuck-aroundery—the visual story is told through 10+ years worth accrued video and film footage, much of which has never been seen before now.
Rather than telling the tale via oral narration, the band members engage the audience with pertinent commentary as the film plays through. As the band’s history is retraced, they sometimes delve into deep, and often candid, admissions and discussions. Suzi Gardner’s severed ear, Donita Sparks’ live television bush, the infamous tampon matter; they gladly recount the mishaps and controversies. On the flip side, the’ve included the moments that recall the disillusionment, misfortune, even tragedy during the chaotic whirlwind of a ride.
Other than clips and footage, the individual band members don’t really make any appearances in the film, though many of their peers—including Alison Wolfe, Shirley Manson, Alison Roberts Krist Novocelic, Valerie Agnew—show up throughout. The first significant sighting of contemporary L7 comes in the form of recent festival performance footage at the tail end of the movie, which works surprisingly well because it’s almost like an ultimate reveal for the curious anticipation some people might build during the film, to see how the band sounds and appears today. After the dust has settled, ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ is a well-crafted affair that plays as a reverent ode to a band that refused to be labeled or characterized, while insisting on being seen, heard, and felt (even smelled).
Order ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ here
Why You Should Buy The DVD
For those people who need more than just a great movie, you’re in luck. As always, a DVD’s extras usually always make a great argument. With ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ you get the DVD and Blu-ray versions, which worked beautifully for me. Inside the case is an extra thick booklet full of photographs laid out in full color that goes on for 12 pages. The added performance footage is great and expounds on their legend as a life force of nature. And then there’s the movie; a second film. ‘The Beauty Process’s is a second feature that turns out to be a fantastic cheeky extra feature mockumentary that’s directed by Krist Novocelic; the same Krist Novocelic that played bass in an L7 buddy-band called Nirvana.