The "beatch" has reopened.
A precursor to the '90s cult faves Jellyfish, Beatnik Beatch is notable as an early testing ground for 'fish drummer/songwriter Andy Sturmer and keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning. The Bay Area band's eponymous major label debut, originally released on Atlantic two years before Jellyfish's first stab at power-pop greatness, has recently been reissued through Collector's Choice Noble Rot label. Good news for those of us following the circuitous career paths of our favorite 'fishers - or for those who just like decent pop-rock in general.
Led by bassist Chris Witt Ketner (who'd later go on to I-don't-know-what), the Beatch was a fairly straightforward pop-rock outfit: less cleverly ornate than Jellyfish, though you can still hear elements of the later band's sound in tracks like the new wavey "Watching the Rain." Ketner and Sturmer were primarily responsible for the band's songwriting, and, per Scott Schindler's liner notes, it was Ketner’s refusal to perform Sturmer's compositions with future 'fish collaborator Manning which ultimately led to Beatch's dissolution.
Though vocal chores are divided between Ketner and Sturmer, for most Jellyfish fans hearing the former is like listening to those parts of the first Steely Dan album that aren't sung by Donald Fagin: something is definitely amiss. Ketner has a pleasant voice in the '80s earnest singer mode (think John Waite, for instance), but Sturmer's is consistently more poppishly elastic and expressive.
As a younger band, the Beatchers wear its members' influences more openly than the later Jellyfish. Band anthem "Beatnik Beatch" cheekily swipes from Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack," while "How Much Does Love Cost" no less brazenly pulls from Pink Floyd's anti-"Money" song. Both tracks are addictive - and I dare you to try and get the chorus of "Beatch" out of your head after you've played it once - but the tracks that tell you something truly special is gonna come out of these boys are the simpler pop tracks.