The Gits - Frenching The Bully (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Gits

Frenching The Bully (1992)

C/Z Records

The '90s were a great decade for alternative music. As a native and resident of Dayton, Ohio, my hometown was a great city for alternative music in the '90s, producing such bands as Guided By Voices, Brainiac, The Breeders and Swearing at Motorists. One band that had their roots here was The Gits. Though they would transplant themselves to Seattle in the late 1980s, they came together and made their first strides as an act in my backyard. They released their debut album Frenching The Bully in 1992. Sadly, I was a young child at for all of this, and only became aware of my hometown's rich musical heritage as an adult.

While geographic location often found them compared to the rawer grunge acts the Pacific Northwest was producing at the time they were no more a grunge band than they were a Riot Grrl band for playing punk music with a female lead singer. One only need listen to the first track on this album, "Absynthe" to know that. Mia Zapata's vocal abilities put her far in front of many of the frontwomen of her day, both inside and outside of the underground music scene. This is likely due to her youth being filled with the music of Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke and BB King. She would carry the vocal styles of the music legends over to punk rock, and in doing so brought a level of passion to the genre most vocalists simply were not capable of.

With a chorus of "Another shot of whiskey and maybe I'll be ready for what's still crowded in your head. Never seeing that all the good times are what walked in with the bad," the second song, "Another Shot of Whiskey," you are quickly given a look into the duality of a relationship where alcohol consumption is both the source and solution to all of lives problems, while many would consider that alcoholism. It seems far more likely that, for most people, a line like that sums up every failed relationship they had in their early twenties.

Towards the middle of the album, the song "It All Dies Anyway" comes to us, a song about suicide that does itself a favor by not pulling any punches or becoming overly metaphorical. When Mia sings "...once is real easy, twice just tease me a little more" before closing the song out with the line "death is the sickest way for attention" you get the impression, especially if you've been there, that the song isn't just about suicide but rather someone who either attempts it or threatens it so many times that when they are finally serious and succeed nobody cared enough to try and stop them. It's also on this track the listener hears the full vocal abilities of Zapata, where her voice turns a fairly straight ahead alternative/punk song into a blues rocker. And that right there, as an aside for anyone interested, is why Jack White's brand of blues fails -- his voice has zero soul power.

The second to last song, "Here's To Your Fuck," you get a taste of the punk vitriol this band is capable of. Behind a wall of great guitar work Zapata ferociously delivers the lines, "Shove your lies up your ass, I hope you choke on his cock. When I found out honey, I'll tell you it wasn't a shock. You're full of shit and you sure know how to suck. Here's to it baby, here's to your fuck." The anger of this track, and perhaps its more traditional punk intensity, make it one of the standout tracks on the album.

Sadly, as good as this album is, The Gits would never have a chance to build on it. Shortly after 2 a.m. on July 7, 1993, Mia Zapata was beaten, raped and strangled a few blocks from her apartment. She was 27 years old. From this, the Home Alive movement was created and a number of bands associated with the Riot Grrl and alternative music scenes dedicated songs and whole albums. The Gits would release what material they had completed for their second album, Enter: The Conquering Chicken and then disband. While this album never reached the mainstream heights of Nirvana or Hole, or even obtained the instant underground name recognition of most the bands from the Pacific Northwest their influence, and their importance is undeniable.