Friday, February 24, 2012

Avengers “s/t” Penelope Houston “On Market Street”

(Water/Devoted Ruins/Glitterhouse) There is nothing wrong with basics in punk rock, and to a degree, the short-lived, long-revered Bay Area band the Avengers, was pretty basic. Minimal, aggressive chords + maximum attitude = punk classic. But then there was Penelope Houston up front to make them special. Her voice, while not exactly beautiful, had an intriguing way of injecting a true singer’s resonance, expressiveness and melodicism into even the most rudimentarily barked lyrics. Those lyrics also always had a pinch of poetry (and a cup of politics), though she did a great job keeping her Patti Smith leanings sounding Ramones-raw. The band only released three songs during their ‘77-79 reign, a few more tracks just after dissolving, then years later the self-titled LP that rustled up a few more tracks, but that was pretty obscure (I’ve only seen an original once). They finally got the treatment they deserved, and began touring again to younger audiences, when a proper retrospective with rarities and live tracks, substantially expanding their discography was released. Unfortunately, it was on the doomed Lookout Records, and got buried underneath the out-of-print record graveyard. Thus, any new collection would be great, but this lovingly assembled near-complete discography, reissue of the self-tiled LP, including new, better mixes of some songs, alternate takes, live material, and a great argument for the band’s greatness, is Tony the Tiger g-r-r-r-r-reat! Houston has a post-Avengers career as a solo artist, capitalizing on the unique husky voice and specialness hinted at in the Avengers. Her new album builds on the singer-songwriter stuff she has done between revived Avengers tours, and adds some bluesy roots elements, that put her on the Austin City Limits track rather than the coffeehouse circuit. 2012 is the year that the cornucopia of Penelope-nes overflowss! Plus, they will likely sell at least a few hundred copies by comic book fans thinking it’s a soundtrack to the Avengers movie!

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