The first great new band of 2018, Bat Fangs, comes at the overlap of two figures in indie rock on the cusp of widespread buzz– drummer Laura King of Flesh Wounds and The Moaners along with guitarist and vocalist Betsy Wright of Ex Hex. With King providing her garage rock thrash and tenacity and Wright her affinity for power-pop hooks and melodies, the duo crafted a debut record as much rooted in ‘80s hair metal nostalgia and derivation as it is in nothing that sounds like any other rock band right now.
But even nostalgia and derivation aren’t the right words for Bat Fangs– they’re not imagining a world in which glam rock was ruled by women, they’re providing a revisionist history in which the women-fronted bands at the cutting edge of the metal scene in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s, like The Runaways, Vixen and Warlock, were remembered in equal respect to their male counterparts, and a band like Bat Fangs wouldn’t have to be radical. Women have long been the most dominant and interesting voices in rock, and Bat Fangs aren’t looking to be politicized– first and foremost, this record is a lot of fun. The opening track, “Turn it Up,” rips open with a transportive riff from Wright’s guitar before King matches her with the kick of the drums. “I don’t care if you stay,” Wright sneers on the hook, her voice dripping with attitude. “Turn it up, and you just fade away.”
The band’s aesthetic is heavily stylized in the cheesiness associated with ‘80s hair metal, down to their neon-tinged album art modeled after many band logos of the time, with such commitment that it feels nuanced in 2018, rather than like paying tribute. They add a little goth flair to their glam as well, with goofy and clever references to the supernatural outside just the band name. “You’re like a wolfbite,” Wright howls on “Wolfbite,” her voice accentuated with chants. “Yeah, you turn my day into night.”
While Wright’s vocals echo throughout the record with an unrelenting ferocity, her guitar work plays an equally important role in the record’s jolts and thrashes. On the standout “Boy of Summer,” she bounces off the vocal melody of the hook, among the catchiest on the album, before shredding into a solo to close the track, making an already high point of the album that much more exciting. On “Heartbeat” the riffs punctuate the vocal melody along with King’s drums complementing the song’s headiness, and on album closer “Fangs Out” Wright’s guitar spirals out of the chorus before launching into a whiplash-inducing solo. In its lightning bolt of a 25 minutes, the album fills every moment with a stomp or a thrill, and wastes no breath to let anyone to catch up.
While listening to the record, it’s hard not to imagine how much fun the two had while they were making it. It’s so evident that this sound and style is something they both deeply care about, and that dedication is proof that something silly and dated in nature can be brought back with a turbulent force while maintaining self-awareness and the sound’s original appeal.