The Gits – Enter: The Conquering Chicken (Broken Rekids)
As it did with Frenching the Bully earlier this year, Broken Rekids has reissued The Gits’ Enter: The Conquering Chicken in newly mixed and remastered format, expanded with live tracks and featuring new cover art. The entire reissue project is important, because it brings both the band’s music and Mia Zapata’s vibrant, strident, and unguardedly passionate vocals to a much wider audience. But at the same time, isn’t it just so goddamn sad? The reissue’s additional live material proves beyond any revisionist harping that The Gits were a great band. They roar through the tense, nervy “Seaweed”, punch up the punk template of “Bob (Cousin O.)” with gritty, brooding guitar solos, and fuse hardcore’s lockstep aggression with Zapata’s furious lyrical soul on “New Fast One.” As for Conquering Chicken itself, even the somewhat muddy signature of its original C/Z release couldn’t dilute its power, so it’s not surprising that the record shines anew in the glow of John Golden’s remastering. A straight, bluesy cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” lets Zapata exist as a traditional vocalist would. Her style still bristles with barbs of emotion, but since she’s not required to bellow the words, they simmer instead of boil. (She finds a way to do both during “Precious Blood,” the following track.) Fleshed out with a few previously unavailable studio tracks and the live stuff, this new version finishes tidily what The Gits started with Frenching the Bully. But it’s also the defining statement of Mia Zapata’s legacy, both as an immensely talented frontwoman and a sad, angry, and beautiful inspiration. She was never fake, and The Gits were never boring. Life (and rock and roll) doesn’t have to be, either.
Read the Glorious Noise review of Frenching the Bully too.
The Gits – Frenching the Bully (Broken Rekids)
A fierce, powerful, slash and burn punk unit who hailed from Seattle via Ohio, The Gits were defined by the steely barbs and arresting passion of vocalist Mia Zapata. The tube-shattering electricity that surged through guitarist Joe Spleen and bassist Matt Dresdner’s instruments was matched and throttled only by the exposed nerve of their singer, who delivered first-person, hardcore-style rants that galvanized an entire generation of riot grrrls, but left her personal identity and desires honestly, brazenly exposed. In a sick and impossibly sad twist of irony, The Gits’ rock revolution was shattered on July 7, 1993, when Zapata was raped and murdered outside a Seattle pub. She was 27. Zapata’s death ended The Gits’ promising rise, which had begun with 1992’s Frenching the Bully and was set to continue with Enter: The Conquering Chicken. But it also rallied a shaken music community. The Home Alive organization was formed to foster awareness and education of self-defense. 7 Year Bitch paid tribute through angry tears to their fallen friend on 1994’s Viva Zapata! And the women of Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre, to name only a few, continued to make vital music that furthered Zapata’s legacy in a flurry of power chords and pointed lyrics.
Now, in the wake of an arrest in the case (thanks to DNA evidence), Bay Area indie Broken Rekids has reissued The Gits’ landmark debut. The back cover bears a simple statement: “Frenching the Bully – Remixed, remastered, and back in the hands of The Gits.” Drummer Steve Moriarty has said news of the arrest prompted him to play The Gits’ records really loud; this spectacular reissue makes that experience even more rewarding. Never a grunge band per se, The Gits always cut a line between street punk and hardcore – the former in the music, the latter in the lyrics. “Another Shot of Whiskey”, “Absynthe”, and “Slaughter of Bruce” kick with renewed kinetics, while “It All Dies Anyway” recalls Patti Smith while Zapata’s words burn with renewed passion. “Is death the only way to get attention?”
The renewed Frenching the Bully includes nine live tracks, culled from a 1993 date in Portland, Oregon. Its additional studio tracks are telling reminders of Zapata’s power. The hardcore screed “Spear and Magic Helmet” burns like white phosphorus on exposed skin, but it’s the single version of Bully‘s “While You’re Twisting, I’m Still Breathing” that’s left tellingly until the end. “I’ll keep coming back slightly stronger…I’ll keep breathing,” Mia Zapata sings. “I’ll keep breathing.”