PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Gits: Frenching the Bully

Rob Horning

The Gits

Frenching the Bully

Label: Broken Rekids
US Release Date: 2003-06-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

It's hard to come to a fair appraisal of the Gits and their contribution to the Pacific Northwest punk scene in the early-'90s, because the band's music will forever be overshadowed by the death of singer Mia Zapata, who was raped and strangled to death in 1993. There is a temptation to either sensationalize her band's music and treat it as background to the crime, or aggrandize it to make it compensate for the senseless waste of life. And for Zapata, who represented a kind of female empowerment in the traditionally misogynistic rock scene, to die in a male-perpetrated sex crime is almost too symbolic an outrage to resist expounding, but it may be trivializing to do so in the context of a record review. Suffice it to say that in light of Zapata's death, which brought attention to danger that sexual violence continues to represent and led to a great deal of advocacy promoting female self-defense, what the Gits signify has to do with much more than their music.

Frenching the Bully, the band's first album, appeared in 1992, placing them squarely in the midst of the riot grrl insurgency, along with L7, and later, Bikini Kill. While the Gits' songs are not overtly feminist, it's impossible not to hear something political, something almost revolutionary, in Zapata's projection of raw female anger. Even today, female signers are often expected to be seductive, coquettish, demure, or introspective; Zapata was none of these. Though her snarls and sarcastic phrasings sometimes sound borrowed from Johnny Rotten and her debt to Joan Jett and Debbie Harry is unmistakable, she nevertheless makes the Gits something more than the average hardcore band they otherwise would have been. She extorts a surprising amount of evocative effects from her limited voice, using gutteral growling and varying levels of intensity in her delivery to denote a range of emotions, from insouciant confidence to surprised vulnerability to bitter rage.

But nothing about the music behind Zapata is especially compelling or innovative: it's fast and competent and relatively hook-free, augmented by the occasional guitar flash of chops or a stop-time drum break to prove their instrumental dexterity. In their arrangements they employ several hardcore clich├ęs -- they'll tack a slow intro to an entirely unrelated thrash song, or toss in a mosh-pit breakdown into an otherwise tightly constructed song, or take a surf riff and boost the speed and distortion. "Spear and Magic Helmet" would be indistinguishable from any Minor Threat song if it weren't for the vocals. The Gits have none of the sing-along immediacy or hooky inventiveness of Bikini Kill or the thorny experimentation of Babes in Toyland. They attempt nothing radical in form, in fact, and the generic consequences inhibit whatever latent possibilities lay in Zapata's lyrics.

Between Zapata's impassioned readings and the rote backdrops there's virtually no interplay, so the sentiment that animates songs like "It All Dies Anyway" and "While You're Twisting, I'm Still Breathing" gets muddled or flattened rather than attenuated, and you end up with the sense that Zapata is fighting to be heard rather than being offered a showcase. A more responsive and versatile band, sensitive to nuance and interested in more flexible, dynamic structures behind her might have framed a song like "Cut My Skin It Makes Me Human" or "Here's to Your Fuck" to enhance its idea and make it visceral and palpable; instead the provocative lyric is lost in another relentless up-tempo song that sounds like hundreds of others you've heard. Still, the urgency of her delivery makes these tracks worth hearing, and gives you enough of a sense of Zapata's potential to allow you to imagine how she might have flourished in a different musical landscape.

This reissue also includes a set recorded live in Portland, Oregon, which reprises many of the songs from the album. Interesting primarily as a document of the band's onstage energy, these performances don't do anything to especially open up the songs and they don't quite have the cathartic impact they may have had live.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.