Bitch Magnet

Bitch Magnet

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AllMusic Review by

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. In 2011, Temporary Residence packaged them all together in one set, adding a healthy amount of goodies that included live tracks, alternate versions, and single tracks. Best of all the extras is a five-song recording made between Star Booty and Umber that shows off the trio at its early crackling best. The set traces the group’s growth from a loose, post-hardcore band on Star Booty to, by the time of Ben Hur two years later, a band that was as tightly constructed as a bed made with hospital corners. All along they had a way with a sneaky melody (Star Booty's “Sea of Pearls,” Umber’s “Motor,” Ben Hur’s “Valmead”) that placed them up near Superchunk in the pantheon of catchy turn-of-the-decade indie rock, as well as a morose side (Ben Hur’s “Ducks and Drakes,” Umber’s “Douglas Leader”) that made them sad bedfellows with Codeine. If at times this jack-of-all-trades nature made them seem a little unfocused and unable to figure out exactly what kind of band they wanted to be, their skill at crafting memorable songs and creating exciting dynamic shifts made up for it. They also knew well enough to bury Sooyoung Park's wispy, boyish vocals and questionable lyrics deep in the mix in favor of Jon Fine’s guitar work and especially drummer Orestes Morfin’s powerful playing. The collection doesn’t make a case for Bitch Magnet as one of the great bands of their era, but the ratio of good songs to clunkers is very favorable, and overall it’s an enjoyable look back at one of the main players during an interesting era of American indie rock.

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