Elbowing the Band Off the Stage

The Gits, Frenching the Bully

I first heard of Mia Zapata and The Gits a little more than a month ago, when National Public Radio’s Morning Edition used the singer’s 1993 rape and murder as the peg for a story on DNA evidence being the key to solving long-cold cases. (A man was arrested for her killing in January.)

It’s a strange way to come to music — you know you’re getting old when you’re spurred to buy records by NPR — but in this case, I’m grateful. The Gits only released one album before Zapata was killed, Frenching the Bully, but it’s quite amazing. The record is good — debuts are rarely great, and this has all the typical trappings — but it’s valuable as a document of how good Zapata was.

The band itself is a competent post-punk outfit with good hooks but nothing that stands out musically, and the other Gits suffer mostly by comparison to Zapata, a fiery force whose voice and manner would be well-suited to Seattle contemporary L7. She grabs each track and refuses to let go, singing with such conviction, ferocity, and expressiveness that the lyrics become irrelevant. The band becomes irrelevant.

I had a revelatory moment listening to “It All Dies Anyway” when the bass, drums, and guitar receded and all that was left was Zapata. That’s what I heard, anyway. The singer had elbowed her bandmates off the record, and that’s not something I’d ever heard before.

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