Bitch Hunt have just released their debut EP and we couldn’t be happier. The non-binary alt-rock four-piece (and I’m sure there are plenty of other hyphenated terms you could apply – this is a band with range!) are alumni of the 2017 edition of London’s First Timers Fest – a festival with an impressive track record of assisting in the formation of some of the best music coming out of the city in the last few years (Big Joanie and Charmpit both played their first gigs at the festival). As such, it’s been something of a wait for this debut EP for those of us who were already aware of the band, but the wait has proved to be very much worth it.
Shapeshifter offers a shimmering collection of five songs characterised by a lo-fi aesthetic and heartfelt lyrics. EP highlight ‘Eau Claire’, which was released as a single back in April and described by us as “perfect punk pop”, is a nostalgic song (though a nostalgia with the rose-tint wiped clear) written about singer Sian’s time spent in a Wisconsin town of the same name. Fittingly then, Twin Peaks fans might even detect a hint of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack in the slacker bassline in the verse here, but a closer point of reference might be The Breeders’ ‘Oh!’ from 1990 album Pod. There’s a similarly woozy feel to the guitars and vocal delivery which accentuates the bittersweet content of the lyrics. In fact, the EP as a whole warrants favourable comparison to the early 1990s output of Kim & Kelley Deal’s band. That’s not to say there is anything derivative about this, though, Bitch Hunt have carved out their own distinctive sound and on this track in particular there’s a real sense of a landscape portrayed in the breadth of the sound – no mean feat considering the relative simplicity of the arrangements.
Closing track, ‘I Wanna Be Un/Happy’, showcases another side to the band’s sound. Here the guitar and bass interweave in a manner reminiscent of Interpol on the verse before the song bursts into life in the chorus. The contrast hinted at in the ‘Un/Happy’ of the title is reflected in the difference in sound between the doom-filled verse and uplifting chorus.
A spiky guitar part on ‘Identity Clinic’ provides the clearest link between what appears to be some of the influences on this EP – ’90s britpop a la Elastica & the bluesy end of the early 2000s garage revival (White Stripes, Black Keys etc). The lyrics are disarmingly open while remaining playful – “leave me out to cry”, we’re implored – and listening to the EP as a whole, the listener is left with the feeling that this mix of honesty, heartache and a sense of humour might be the defining characteristic of Bitch Hunt’s songs. ‘Out of Eden’’s biblical references serve a similar purpose – playing with our familiar understanding of phrases to provide counterpoint and illumination to what appears to be a story of two relationships – one destructive and the other restorative.
The EP can be bought for the low low price of £5 over on the band’s bandcamp page and has been released by Reckless Yes – a label with impeccable taste – so this reviewer would urge you to do so. It’s a real treat.
Shapeshifter, the new EP from Bitch Hunt, is out now via Reckless Yes.