Beginning in 1987, the North Carolina-via-Ohio band--still clinging to the tail end of their teenage years -- raged cacophonously, helping usher in a particularly complex and artful form of quasi-punk aggression that came to be called "post-hardcore" or "math-rock."
Three exhilarating albums got made, members left (sometimes under less-than-amicable circumstances) and then returned, and finally the whole thing disintegrated in 1990. Diehard devotees of the late '80s noise underground may have remembered them fondly over the next two decades, but as good as they were, Bitch Magnet's legacy never grew into the kind of hallowed mystique afforded to peers like Slint or Polvo
, and the band appeared permanently exiled to history. So the fact that they're an active band again in 2012, however welcome the re-emergence, just seems a bit . . . weird.
"For you and me both," laughs guitarist Jon Fine. "I have no idea how any of this happened." He and Bitch Magnet drummer Orestes Morfin are in a taxi heading for the airport. The night before, they teamed with singer-bassist Sooyoung Park in Seattle for the reconstituted trio's first U.S. show in 22 years;
the first of just five dates in the States before Bitch Magnet disbands again for good. The gig went great; Mudhoney's Mark Arm even joined them onstage for a set-closing cover of Minor Threat's "Filler." The impetus for the return was the 2011 reissue of Bitch Magnet's three albums -- Star Booty, Umber and Ben Hur -- on Temporary Residence. An invitation to play All Tomorrow's Parties in the U.K.
last December was extended, and after much discussion the three finally agreed to give it a shot. "To be perfectly honest, I resisted the whole idea at first," admits Park. "I was the one holdout who had to be convinced, just because I knew it would take a lot of time to prepare to do something like this and we're all in different parts of the world."