This edition of FFO is for fans of 80s rock, in all of its heavy eyeliner and spandex glory. For those who truly believe that love is a battlefield, but one that’s worth it because sometimes two people just belong together. For those who sang into hair brushes, possibly rocking a feather boa, and eventually running late for the day—you know who you are. Embrace it.
This edition is, of course, for fans of the queen of 80s pop rock—none other than Pat Benatar.
After releasing her debut album In the Heat of the Night in 1979, Benatar went on to have two multi-platinum, and five platinum, albums. She put out single after single of musical gold, with hits like “Heartbreaker,” “Shadows of the Night,” and of course, “Love Is a Battlefield.” Much of her most recognizable work is from the early stages of her career, and though Benatar has released a handful of singles since the early 2000s, nothing compares to her releases of the 80s. Nothing, that was, until now.
You’re a fan of Pat Benatar? You should consider checking out upcoming dynamic duo, Bat Fangs.
The duo, composed of Ex Hex bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura King (Flesh Wounds/Cold Cream), formed in 2016 and released its debut self-titled album in 2018—a release that’s already making waves. Coming off a tour with Superchunk, these two already well-established musicians focus on what they describe as “acid-soaked 80s hard rock for the living and the dead.” But somehow, it sounds a whole lot like Pat Benatar.
First, to look at the songwriting.
Both have themes of love and heartbreak… as does basically every songwriter, ever. However, these two go about it in a really fun, girl-power kind of way. In a we’re-melodramatic-but-it’s-cool kind of way.
Benatar was the queen of employing incredibly cheesy lines that went over well due to her confident delivery—her way of really singing with conviction. Some lines from “Love Is a Battlefield” are downright embarrassing to speak aloud (see: “We are young/ Heartache to heartache we stand/ No promises, no demands/ Love is a battlefield”), but this 80s rocker had no problem bringing the track to a peak at number five on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She was able to make embarrassingly dramatic, over exaggerated depictions of relationships totally rock ‘n roll.
Bat Fangs—though maybe not quite as dramatic—have a similar style of delivery. In “Rock the Reaper,” lines like “Be the runaway/ Be the underdog/ Gonna sing about heartbreak, baby/ Gonna sing along?” totally embody the same crazy-kids-navigating-love theme. Further, the group’s fearlessly catchy delivery practically begs for a sing-along, just as their predecessor.
As far as actual vocal delivery, it can be a bit shocking to hear the similarities between the two vocalists—Wright and Benatar. Both pack a punch vocally, and employ a seriously theatrical tone. It’s hard to explain, but you know that thing that Benatar had going on where it kind of sounded like she was whining/groaning/about to cry basically all the time, but it was entirely on purpose? Wright has that figured out as well, and it’s awesome.
As far as instrumentation goes, Bat Fangs generally sticks to steady, driving percussion and is totally riff based. This is obvious in tracks like “Turn It Up” and “Rock the Reaper,” but the list goes on. Benatar, barring those times where she was more heavily pop-influenced, generally does the same. Further, when Benatar is more heavily riff-based… it sounds a lot like what Bat Fangs is putting out now.
For example, let’s look at one of the craziest comparisons I’ve found. Listen to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and then put on Bat Fangs’ “Boys of Summer.” Hear any similarities?
Something that might stick out is the tail end of the main riff in Benatar’s track—you know, that little riff that’s non-essential in the way that it’s one of the most recognizable riffs in her career? Yeah, that one. It’s one of those moments of guitar mastery that you just have to sing along to, as if somehow your vocals can imitate the six strings.
That riff is basically in Bat Fangs’ “Boys of Summer,” interspersed throughout the track. Listen to both once and it’s hard to miss. Now, I’m going to guess that’s an intentional throwback to the 80s rock goddess and not an unintentional slip up, and if so, it’s a clear indicator that the group is drawing influence from Benatar.
Lastly, it’s important to point out that while both teeter on the line between pop and hard rock, Bat Fangs are certainly not a carbon copy of Benatar. This comparison isn’t one of exact replication, but instead of taking the foundation laid by Benatar and building on that.
The duo adds an interesting layer to Benatar in that they’re really ripping, no holds barred, into a messier realm of rock ‘n roll. They have a garage-rock fuzz factor going on that wasn’t so present in their predecessor’s music (that was definitely more pop-leaning), giving the duo a grittier sound overall. Further, Bat Fangs music is generally simpler, and a bit less cinematic, than Benatar’s—further supporting the group’s heavier punk influence.
So for fans of Pat Benatar, looking for a natural progression building on the foundations already laid by the 80s rocker? It’s time to check out Bat Fangs.