First Look: Bitch Magnet Reissues

 

Released this week by
Temporary Residence, the post-rock legend’s entire oeuvre is ripe for
rediscovery.

 

By Ron Hart

When Oberlin College students Jon Fine, Orestes Morfin and
Sooyoung Park put their shared affinities for the likes of Scratch Acid, Big Black
and Squirrel Bait in action back in 1986, little did they know the noise they
would create as Bitch Magnet would not only inspire two generations of
musicians but help provide the DNA for the supersonic sub-genre known as
“post-rock” (even though the band scratches their head at the kooky
term).

 

Shortly after relocating to Chapel Hill, North Carolina,
joining the likes of Flat Duo Jets and The Connells in the Triangle region’s
burgeoning underground rock movement, the trio quickly set themselves apart
from the scene at the time with their high wire act. They deftly balanced the
rhythmic complexity of the post-hardcore they were devouring vicariously
through such labels as SST and Touch & Go with a keen sense of melodic
density that was all their own. The group even piqued the interest of one of
their heroes, David Grubbs of Squirrel Bait/Bastro/Gastr del Sol fame, who
joined them on tour in 1989 and performed on their 1990 swan song LP, Ben Hur before the band split up and
moved on to form such acclaimed nineties acts as Seam, Vineland, Coptic Light
and Walt Mink.

 

However, the influence the group has had on the last 20
years of modern rock is undeniable, inspiring such a wide swath of groups
ranging from Superchunk to Sunn O))) with their unique brand of math-y
aggression. “Probably more than any other band, Bitch Magnet sent me in
the direction I took with the music I have tried to make,” said Battles
guitarist Ian Williams, who played with Magnet guitarist Jon Fine when he
briefly joined Williams as a temporary member of Don Caballero in the late
‘90s.

 

 

 

Finally, after years of being out of print following the shuttering
of their record label Communion (which also put out records by Jawbreaker,
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and Thrones, among others), the scholarly
staff at Brooklyn Temporary Residence, Ltd. scored the rights to Bitch Magnet’s
back catalog. Just in time for their hotly anticipated reunion gig at All
Tomorrow’s Parties’ Nightmare Before
Christmas
extravaganza in the UK the weekend of December 9th (marking
the first time the original lineup of the band has been on stage together since
1989), this eponymous three-disc anthology features remastered editions of the
group’s original three LPs: 1988 debut Star
Booty
, 1989’s Umber and the
aforementioned Hur. You also get more
than a half dozen bonus tracks as well, primarily alternate versions of such
key Bitch bangers as “Motor,” “Joan of Arc” and
“Sadie” among others. The packaging for this set is pretty damn cool
as well, particularly the snatches of homemade concert flyers, bootleg cassette
covers and live action shots that exist in lieu of predictable essays and liner
notes from indie blowhards who think they know better.

 


Bitch Magnet – Mesentery by Big Hassle Media

 

Come, Polvo, Silkworm, Unwound, Chavez, Shipping News, June
of 44, Tortoise, Mogwai, Rodan and Russian Circles are just a small smattering
of the acts with whom the shadow of influence cast upon them by Bitch Magnet
has loomed large over the course of the last quarter century. And this
collection should be as essential to your listening rotation as your favorite
album from any of the bands who continually drank from the unique brand of
introspective intensity pioneered by these unsung heroes of indie rock’s mean
season.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bitch is back.

 

 

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