Release Date: Dec 6, 2011
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock
Bitch Magnet exploded out of Oberlin College in 1986, three (sometimes four) young men obsessed with Big Black's noise, King Crimson's precision and Scrabble-geek song titles like "Mesentery." This set collects all three records and appends unreleased tracks and singles. Their half-formed debut EP is redeemed by a previously unreleased follow-up session. The LPs Ben Hur and Umber still stun, with Sooyoung Park's mumble parrying Jon Fine's alternately bulldozing and delicate guitar and Orestes Morfin's AP-calculus drumming.
Ignore the stupid name. Why these guys released their music under a moniker that sounds like something your cousin would have come up with for his shitty junior high school punk band, we may never know. Bitch Magnet only recorded for three short years from 1988 to 1990 and released an equal number of albums, but the impact they had on post-rock and early ’90s indie can’t be understated.
If the great musical stars of our times were awarded the opportunity to travel back through time and change one moment from their past, what would they choose? Would Neil Young avoid that endorsement of Ronald Reagan? Would Janet Jackson have kept her Superbowl nipple concealed? Would Eric Clapton resist ranting drunken, racist bile onstage in 1976? Would Kevin Rowland erase his 1999 Alan McGee-endorsed transvestite covers album? Would Bitch Magnet change their terrible, terrible name? How many potential listeners have been repelled by that moniker and decided not to give Bitch Magnet’s music the attention it deserves? Now, thanks to Temporary Residence’s lavish reissue set of the group’s three records, it is time to look beyond that terrible, terrible name and recognise Bitch Magnet as perhaps one of the greatest, and certainly most underappreciated, post-hardcore rock groups of all time. Formed in 1986 by guitarist Jon Fine, bassist/vocalist Sooyoung Park and drummer Orestes Morfin, the band’s debut was the Star Booty EP (1988). Generally faster than their later material, several cuts such as ‘Carnation’, ‘C Word’ and ‘Knucklehead’ are indebted to the Hüsker Dü fixation that gripped so many American bands of the era.
Bitch Magnet’s place in the indie rock world of the late '80s/early '90s was always kind of muddled. They walked the line between powerful, super-masculine bands (like any Albini project or a group on Am Rep) and more nuanced and composed bands like Slint, giving listeners who wanted both experiences at once a good compromise proposition. Their two albums (1989’s Umber, 1990’s Ben Hur) and EP (1988’s Star Booty) were fairly popular at the time but grew in stature as they became hard to find over the years.