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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Avengers

The Avengers (Water)

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Although the Avengers were probably the greatest of the original wave of San Francisco punk rock bands, they never had a proper album release during their time together in the late '70s. Posthumously, an LP dubbed “The Pink Album” was collected from various sessions and issued in the '80s. That long lost album plus a bonus disc of live cuts and rarities fill an excellent new CD. For most of us, this reissue will be the last word on the band.

The tracks from the Pink Album are a reminder of how powerful and dangerous punk was when it burst onto a largely unsuspecting rock culture—as well as how much could be accomplished by a four-piece band with minimal production. The Avengers sounded huge. Fronted by Penelope Houston, who sang as sharply as a switchblade knife, the band surged with startling urgency and power across the already well-trod format of two guitars, bass and drums. Their lyrics hurled grenades at all sides in a furious whirlwind of denial, skepticism and scorn.


Often argued during this era was the question of where punk stood in relation to the rock music that came before. The Avengers answered with a fully engaged, unironic cover of “Paint it Black” drenched in dark psychedelic hues. In his jacket notes, Greil Marcus, one of the most thoughtful rock critics, makes an important and often overlooked point about early punk: there was a strange mystery at the heart of it, a refusal to be fully deciphered or decoded. With the Avengers, there was more to the drama than the surface fury.