25 Years of Girl Trouble’s Hit It Or Quit It

Alex Koenig is good to your earhole. “Well I am your crazy driver, honey I’m sure to steer you wrong / I am dying in a story. I’m only living to sing this song.” Iggy Pop uttered...
By    January 28, 2014

23091-banner-girl-trouble-band-tacomaAlex Koenig is good to your earhole.

“Well I am your crazy driver, honey I’m sure to steer you wrong / I am dying in a story. I’m only living to sing this song.”

Iggy Pop uttered those words during the opening couplet of “I Need Somebody,” a doomsday ballad from the Stooges’ 1973 proto-punk classic, Raw Power. On paper, it was just another display of the tedium of finding someone to love. Yet from the animal howl of the Michigan misanthrope, it was a death rattle. James Williamson’s guitar wasn’t soloing; it was spontaneously combusting. Each vigorous smash to the snares may very well have left blood and organs oozing down the drum set. The Stooges’ barbarian raucous led them to be perennial outsiders to commercial success, and Raw Power was largely ignored at the time, though steadily grew in recognition in ensuring years. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Fifteen years later, it’s 1988 and a sea change is underway. Folks put off by Mötley Crüe and Poison were looking for an alternative to the decade’s dinosaur rock, if not extinction. Two nascent record labels, Olympia’s K Records and Seattle’s Sub Pop, drew the blueprints. Hit it Or Quit It was the debut collaborate effort between the two companies, and the first full length LP Sub Pop ever released.

It’s only a slight hyperbole to indie rock connoisseurs that in retrospect, it was a team-up on par with Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla, Marvel and Capcom, Lennon and McCartney. The two indie imprints would be responsible for much of the ensuing decade’s worth of bold and irreverent rock and roll, so influential that Kurt Cobain would release his band’s debut on Sub Pop, and get the K logo tattooed on his left forearm. Hit It Or Quit It was the match to kindle the flame.

None of this would matter, however, if the songs on Hit It Or Quit It didn’t hold up. Like the Stooges, Girl Trouble paired meticulous songwriting with teenage id. “Gonna take you to my cage and make you feel alright, ” sneers Kurt Kendall on “Hot Monkey Love.” The thrift-store axe on “Hurt Your Heart” hisses like fried eggs on pavement. Hit It Or Quit It is a garage rock document that remains unstuck in time, as if the ageless sly drifters at your high school reunion made it. You know, the ones who talked back to teachers, hooked up in the janitor’s closet, and carried a flask in their lockers.

As far as debut records go, Hit It Or Quit It remains an iconoclastic call to arms. Also akin to the Stooges, Girl Trouble’s band name clued you into their songs, which are tongue-in-cheek vignettes on the frustrations of romantic love. “Where’s The Loser” slices right into heartache’s harsh details, only the tender hook of the chorus to soften the blow. Like Iggy spilling his guts out on “I Need Somebody,” you get the vibe that Kendall was singing with a similar conviction.

I imagine that performing rock and roll felt like therapy for Girl Trouble, as if to purge through emotions on wax was the closet thing one could get to nirvana. Hit It Or Quit It’s scrappy glory is best heard on K’s vinyl reissue. And while it’s arguably a notch below other releases on the label’s roster—LPs from Beat Happening and Bikini Kill come to mind—it set a snarling, sterling precedent for how great garage rock could be. After all, you can only catch “White Lightning” in a bottle once.

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