The Gits, The Fever, and More

THE GITS

Frenching the Bully

(Broken Rekids)

The Gits' debut, Frenching the Bully, is one of the most overdue rock reissues in recent memory. The Seattle quartet slipped beneath the radar during the grunge explosion of the early '90s, and before receiving due props, the murder of lead singer and lyricist Mia Zapata in 1993 ended the band; by 1995, their albums were out of print. The Gits' original record label, C/Z, refused to let the band press copies themselves, but when C/Z sold its catalog last year, the Gits borrowed money to buy back two of their albums. Frenching the Bully's reissue includes nine live tracks that offer a definitive picture of a fast-breaking yet articulate punk-rock band led by a guerrilla soldier in Truth's army: Joe Spleen's guitar riffs dance, Matt Dresdner and Steve Moriarty form a 500-horsepower rhythm section, and Zapata's trilling bark runs arm in arm with them through the streets. The Gits varied the music while maintaining a solid core. The headbanging surges of "Another Shot of Whiskey," the hard rhythmic roll of "Wingo Lamo," and the dark strut of "It All Dies Anyway" prevent the album from locking into a repetitive groove. Likewise, Zapata's vocal delivery goes from throaty warbles to a starved shout. Like Janis Joplin, she dug so deep into her gut that the words often leaped ahead of the music. Stagnation was torture. On her most visceral song, "Second Skin," Zapata yells, "I've got that chance to give every drop that's left in me." It's a will that can't be silenced. JEANNE FURY

THE FEVER

Pink on Pink

(Kemado)

"If Richard Hell sang new-wave torch songs with Beefheart's guitar player and Led Zeppelin's rhythm section": This is what Geremy Jasper, the vocalist for New York brat-rock quintet the Fever, told YRB magazine his band sounds like. He did even better with BreakinIn.com, claiming the band resembles "Cyndi Lauper in a knife fight with the Gun Club." Both descriptions apply. Jasper has one hell of a mop (of hair) and an equally excellent yawp (of a voice); the dirtiness of both are matched by Sanchez Esquire's open-toned raunch guitar and the two-finger Farfisa drone-riffs played by some dude known solely as J. Pink on Pink, a five-song EP that serves as the Fever's debut, sounds like perfectly decent, perfectly serviceable garage-new wave at first; come back to it after a short vacation, and the depth and vivacity of its craft make themselves even plainer. Leadoff track "Ponyboy" sets the tone, the band sneering a "ba-da-dap" chorus over a Cramps-like crunch-and-roll riff as Jasper whoops, erupts, and yowls like a mutt in heat, while managing for all of it to stay as clean as a $1,000 suit. "Ladyfingers" starts out evoking Iggy-in-Berlin with its brisk robo-beat and tightly controlled guitar but soon gathers speed and loosens up. The real genius comes when Jasper and co. turn Sheila E.'s Prince-penned 1984 hit, "The Glamorous Life," into a snarling stomp that sounds like it got left offtake your pickthe first Only Ones album or the first Nuggets box set. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

GLENN BRANCA

The Ascension

(Acute)

I spent an hour trying to figure out how to write this review without using a variation on the old "rock and classical make for uncomfortable bedfellows" saw. Then I gave up, because it's true. Most of the time, the best you get are noble (or ignoble) (or ignorable) (or both) failures like Rachels or inspired one-offs like John Cale's Paris 1919, on which Little Feat play chamber music. I spent another hour trying to figure out how to write this review without stating for the umpteenth time that Glenn Branca has been the most assiduous composer-performer attempting to bridge the gap in the last 20 years. But he has: Academy and street were never the same after ex-theater student Branca heard the high, singing note at the heart of the Ramones, the celestial monochord that binds the world. Branca's spent the last 20-odd years refining his multiguitar orchestral idea (which he may have pinched from his close associate Rhys Chathamsee Table of the Elements' recent, lovingly packaged Chatham set, An Angel Moves Too Fast to See). The Ascension is that idea in chrysalis. If tracks like "Lesson No. 2" have the requisite no-wave chimes and onrushing tom-toms (simulating the 5:15 train or the first Television album), the longer pieces achieve a soaring lift that owes as much to Romanian modernist Gy├Ârgy Ligeti as N.Y.C. no-wavers Mars. For anyone interested in the origins of what, say, Sonic Youth (whose Lee Ranaldo supplies liner notes) were doing until they became the world's greatest classic-rock revival band, The Ascension is urgent and key. JESS HARVELL

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