Although based in North Carolina, Bitch Magnet formed at Oberlin College in Ohio. (For a bit more geographic diversity, Star Booty was recorded at Oberlin, produced in Chicago and one song was captured onstage at CBGB in New York.) The trio — guitarist Jon Fine, bassist-singer Sooyoung Park and drummer Orestes Delatorre — lays out eight sheets of feedback-heavy fuzz-punk, well-played and raucous but lacking in any real personality that would make it stand out among others offering similar wares.
Things get a bit more streamlined on Umber, where songs with real melodies emerge from the loud miasma. With a second guitarist, David Galt, contributing mightily to the din, the anthemic “Motor” sets the pace for a collection of ten noisefests, some of which are painted in a deep shade of Big Black. Though the record’s slow tracks sound quite a bit like contemporaries Nice Strong Arm, Bitch Magnet finally manages to overcome this excessive familiarity by serving up a thick guitar-rich soup that splashes by quite powerfully on its own. (The Umber CD and cassette append Star Booty.)
Galt, whose first-name-only credit on Umber became a source of confusion when ex-Squirrel Bait guitarist David Grubbs played on the next album’s “Valmead,” was gone by Ben Hur. The album includes a lyric sheet, but with lines like “What beats the taste of lye on a swollen tongue raw with sores” it probably shouldn’t have. Thankfully, the lyrics are unintelligible and decidedly secondary to the seismic rumblings of the industrial-strength rhythm section and slices of noise-funk guitar. “Dragoon,” the excellent nine-minutes-plus opener, lives up to the album’s epic title, but Bitch Magnet’s derivativeness (right down to the bullhorned vocals) do nothing to shake its well-earned Little Black tag.
Park went on to form Seam. Fine moved to New York, continued his music career (in Vineland, on the road with Don Caballero and most recently in Coptic Light) while also pursuing a career as a journalist.