Avengers – Avengers (Water)

The Avengers were part of the small group of early punk adapters in California who made amazing music, yet were sorely under-documented. Without a well-funded label to capture the Brit-inspired punk insurgency bubbling up, groups like this San Fransisco foursome released just a few songs on a local start-up before calling it a day. Some, like The Screamers, have their entire legacy built on whatever lo-fi bootleg recordings exist. The Avengers only officially released a three-song EP (We Are The One) in their original 1977-1979 incarnation, but thankfully they recorded other material and that’s why this two-disc retrospective is possible over 30 years later.

Disc One is what has come to be known as The Pink Album, a 1983 compilation of the We Are The One EP, a posthumous self-titled EP produced by Steve Jones, and other studio tracks. The recordings are raw and unrefined, but the band was tight, matching the visceral punch of The Sex Pistols and The Weirdos. You can hear the Avengers creating a musical bridge between the post-glam sound of early punk rock and the nastier proto-hardcore that would start to see the light of the day as the band were on their way out. As amazing as the band were, spiky-haired singer Penelope Houston was the draw, delivering brutal and uncompromising lyrics that spoke explicitly to a new American youth culture – one that had lost its innocence and were painfully aware of it (something conveyed brilliantly on us vs. them anthems “The American In Me,” “Open Your Eyes,” and “We Are The One”). In addition to their own tunes, the Avengers also turn in a powerful cover of “Paint It Black,” whose lyrical themes fit perfectly with the group’s own bleak visions of American society gone wrong.

Disc Two is compiled from concerts, rehearsals, and even rawer studio recordings. The sound quality is choppier than Disc One, but the intensity and power are intact. Three songs from a 1978 Winterland show are historically important, since it would be the last show The Sex Pistols would play, but by all accounts the Avengers stole the show from the tired headliners. The band came really close to capturing the purest essence of punk rock’s sound and aesthetic on a jaw-dropping version of “I Believe In Me” from that show. Both discs are filled with vital ideas and performances, and this should be a part of any self-respecting punk rocker’s collection. Buy it or forever suck.


Disc One (The Pink Album):

1 “We Are The One”

2. “Car Crash”

3. “I Believe In Me”

4. “Open Your Eyes”

5. “No Martyr”

6. “Desperation”

7. “Thin White Line”

8. “Paint It Black”

9. “The American In Me”

10. “White Nigger”

11. “Uh-Oh”

12. “Second To None”

13. “Corpus Christi”

14. “Fuck You”

Disc Two (Bonus Material):

1. “Teenage Rebel”

2. “Friends of Mine”

3. “White Nigger”

4. “Cheap Tragedies”

5. “The Good, the Bad, and the Kowalskis”

6. “Crazy Homicide”

7. “Summer of Hate”

8. “I Believe in Me”

9. “Your Parents Sins”

10. “Something’s Wrong”

11. “Money Money”

12. “Misery”

13. “Time To Die”

14. “Release Me”

15. “Zero Hour”

16. “American in Me”

17. “Uh-Oh”