GITS, THE: The Conquering Chicken: CD

Tragedy makes it tempting to overestimate the Gits. In light of the brutal rape and murder of vocalist Mia Zapata, who would want to say anything bad about her group? But before her death, her band was simply one in a long line of second-ran Seattle punk bands, little known outside the Northwest. That’s not to take anything away from a group, which held a lot of promise until some pathetic bastard robbed the world of one of the best rock vocalists ever. Zapata, at her best, alternates from the painful wail of P.J. Harvey to the enraged howl of Courtney Love to the poetic musings of Exene Cervenka. And when she covers Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” she recalls the soul of Janis Joplin. Listening to Enter: The Conquering Chicken, one can’t help but feel that this was a band who was still finding their voice while at the same time laying down several standout tracks that only hint at the future. The Gits are at their absolute best when Zapata is firmly in control. The album’s opening tracks “Bob (Cousin O)” and “Guilt within Your Head” are indisputably strong, but the band occasionally misfires, especially on tossaways like the dopey, quasi-sing-along, “Italian Song.” And while most of her words have a guttural, soul-purging quality to them (“Seaweed”), sometimes Zapata’s lyrics sound forced and perhaps a little too self-conscious, like the poetry of a broken heart, crammed with as much emotion as possible into every word. Then again, it’s an uncomfortable position to put one’s self in, second-guessing the raw emotion of a woman who more often than not produced gems not junk. Repackaged to include a (slightly muddled) seven-song live set, …The Conquering Chicken leaves little doubt that the Gits, despite the rough edges and occasional goofs, were destined to become one of the best bands Seattle had to offer, rather than a simple footnote in a scene fraught with much lesser groups.

 –eric (Broken)