Avengers – Avengers (Music Review)

Avengers cover

Avengers – Avengers

For years, the Avengers’ seminal debut was unavailable due to legal issues. All I knew of them was “The American In Me”, a brutal, catchy song that showcased frontwoman Penelope Houston’s charisma and presaged both the hardcore movement and the poppier punk that would come later. That self-titled debut (their only album ever) has finally been re-issued with a second disc of B-sides. Now that I can hear it, I’m finding it somewhat enjoyable, but it’s not the classic that deserves the legend it has three decades later.

The main problem is that it doesn’t feel like a cohesive album. A 1977 EP fleshed out with additional tracks recorded over the next couple years, it catches a young band figuring out what they want to be in a not-yet-defined scene. It’s especially obvious that this comes from the early days of punk with songs like “We Are The One” and “I Believe In Me”. The optimism there optimism would have been dismissed as hippie trash once punk culture was more fully defined. Just one year later, the painful street life documented in”Desperation” and “Second To None” sounded like it could have been lifted right from The Stooges or The Dead Boys. And while the impassioned cover of “Paint it Black” is one of my favorite tracks, it’s just plain difficult to categorize.

Though there are many good songs, there are unfortunately no more like “The American In Me”. “Fuck You” has the energy, and “Thin White Line” has the subversive earworms, but that just emphasizes the unfocused chaos of the release. And then there is the unfortunate “White Nigger”, which would sabotage the whole album if their definition of “nigger” weren’t too unconventional to be fully offensive.

It’s ironic that the B-sides have better production and a more cohesive feel. But there are only enough new studio tracks to create another EP, and the rest is filled out by live recordings and alternate song takes. Still, it shows what an excellent band The Avengers were turning into. It’s too bad that their first album has to stand alone, rather than being the opening chapter to a great career.

Grade: B-

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