Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Avengers: Avengers

Review # 23
Artist: The Avengers
Title: Avengers
Format: LP
Label: C.D. Presents
Year: 1983
Songs: 14

It may be due to the scarcity of recorded material by this band, but I feel that the Avengers are an underrated band in the history of punk rock. Sure, aficionados of the genre are into them and their first single usually makes any top 100 punk singles list that Mojo and various other music publications will release from time to time, but for whatever reason, you just don't often see punk kids wearing patches and shirts for this band, even on the same level as many other bands with equally (if not more) limited discographies from the same era. And I've never understood why that is, because this band was great.

"The Pink Album," as this release is sometimes referred to by the band's singer Penelope Houston, is a compilation of tracks from across the band's short life (1977-1979) that includes much of what the band recorded and I think most or all of what they actually released while still active. It starts with "We Are The One," the opening track to the band's first single and an exciting and inspiring declaration of the punk identity: "we are not Jesus Christ, we are not fascist pigs, we are not capitalist industrialists, we are not communists: we are the one." "Look everyone," Penelope seems to be saying, "we're not like what you've seen before and we're taking over, so deal with it." On "I Believe in Me" this confident declaration is reinforced: "I can do it myself and make up my own rules, I believe in me, I'll make my dreams real." If that's not the manifesto of punk (or at least the early punk scene), I don't know what is.

Lest you should think this band is posi-core though, they show they can be snotty, dark, and critical as well any punk band with songs like "Fuck You," "The Amerikan in Me," "Car Crash," and a powerful cover of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black." The songs are gutsy and hard driving without needing to scream and grind. Unlike most of the California punk bands from the early days, the Avengers did not play hardcore. But it also manages to be melodic without needing to be poppy or having a new wave sound. The Avengers played straight-up old school punk with compelling, melodic vocals and sing-along choruses that owe a lot to the Sex Pistols and the first Clash record without being derivative of those bands. These are songs to sing along and pogo to, and they'll be stuck in my head for days after listening to this. It's a punk classic, made that much more so by the fact that several tracks on it (from the band's second EP) were produced by Steve Jones, the guitarist of the Sex Pistols. Punk historians will also note that the Avengers opened for the Pistols at their fabled final show at the Winterland in 1978. From what I hear though, that was no fun, and people left feeling like they'd been cheated.

Apparently this was out of print for a long time and tied up in publishing rights issues. So maybe this is why this band hasn't gotten the attention due to them in recent times. Fortunately, they're back in print and actually back on tour as well! I saw the Avengers a couple of years back at the Funhouse in Seattle. Not all original members, unfortunately, but still really powerful and fun as a live band.

If you have even a casual interest in punk rock and you don't know the Avengers, check this record out. It's fantastic.

Here's a little taste: "We Are The One"

Total songs listened: 274

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