What separates Bitch Magnet from Slint, Codeine, the Jesus Lizard and other late-’80s/early-’90s American indie groups resuscitated by Britain’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival? To be perfectly honest, not much. New material and major revelations rarely accompany these sorts of plum gigs and reunion tours. Still, predictable and enjoyable are by no means mutually exclusive adjectives, and even grizzled cynics can appreciate well-prepared comfort food.
Formed at Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1986, Bitch Magnet rapidly matured from a scrappy, hardcore-influenced pup into a heavier, noisier and wilier animal. By 1989’s high-octane Umber, bassist-vocalist Sooyoung Park was writing introspective yet furious songs that grafted anthemic melodies, postadolescent angst and horizonless feedback smudges onto Jon Fine’s chugging, demi-metal guitar and Orestes Morfin’s scene-stealing power drumming. Released the following year, Ben Hur unleashed roughed-up prog rhythms and byzantine compositions that would inspire scores of so-called math-rockers (e.g., Don Caballero, Rodan, Pitchblende). However, the trio’s flagging chemistry slightly diluted the album’s intensity. Morfin left, and Park founded the calmer Seam shortly thereafter. (Disclosure: Fine played in my old band Alger Hiss circa 1997, though we haven’t kept in touch.
Fetchingly reissued as a self-titled triple-disc set in 2011, Bitch Magnet’s complete works now scan like a punishingly loud coming-of-age story. Fortunately, as overseas live reports and YouTube clips attest, the tale is enduring enough to resonate in the hands of three unassuming guys in their forties.—Jordan N. Mamone
(The Oct 25 LPR gig, also featuring Bitch Magnet's cryptic, unsettling contemporaries Moss Icon, marks for the first local show by either band in more than 20 years. The Oct 26 Knit date, meanwhile, features opening sets from Turing Machine, a recently rebooted local trio that mixes post-hardcore guitar squiggle with a dance-floor-friendly pulse, and punk party-starters Violent Bullshit.—Ed.)