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Music Review: Avengers – Avengers

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The Avengers were one of the early Bay Area punk bands who never quite got the recognition they deserved. Of course, any “punk fan” today is obliged to kneel at the altar of this legendary four-piece, but that is academic. Listening to the newly released 2-CD collection titled simply, Avengers, one is blown away at the ferocity of the group. It is as if they were destined for martyrdom even as they sang “No Martyr.”

That tune hails from their one and only album, also titled Avengers, which was released in 1983. The album was posthumous; the group were only together from 1977 to 1979. The only piece of vinyl that was released during their time together was the three-song EP We Are The One, on the legendary Dangerhouse label. Besides the title track, the EP also included “I Believe In Me” and “Car Crash.”

I have been writing to Alex Trebek for years now, imploring him to give us a Punk Rock Jeopardy. So far all it has netted me is a restraining order. But if it ever happens, and the answer comes up “Avengers,” the question will be “Who opened for The Sex Pistols at their final performance?” As we have seen, long careers have been built out of much flimsier credentials. But I will bet that just about every punk band of the past 30 years would love to be able to make this claim. The importance of the fact that the group opened for the Pistols is not the credibility it conferred on them though. It is that it led to Steve Jones producing them.

Although it was simply titled Avengers, most people (including the band themselves apparently), refer to their one and only record as the “Pink” album. Unfortunately, it was not issued until 1983, long after the group had split, and was more of an epitaph than anything else. It is pure speculation as to what would have happened had it been released in 1979, and supported with van tours across the country. But that never happened, so we will never know.

Actually, the whole thing was something of a compilation from the start. The 14 tracks on the original vinyl release came from multiple sources; only four of them were produced by Steve Jones. But even though the various cuts hailed from numerous sessions, recorded over the brief life span of the band, Avengers held together quite well.

It still sounds great, to be honest. There could not have been a more powerful statement of intent than “We Are The One.” Penelope Houston’s vocals are incredible here, as is the fire of the band behind here. Those four songs that the group recorded with Steve Jones were issued as (what else?) Avengers, which was a four-song EP that did not see the light of day until the band had split. Those four are “The American in Me,” “Uh Oh!,” “Corpus Christi,” and “White Nigger.” These are great tunes, and really make one wish that rather than imploding, this group could have moved forward together.

The final bit of music recorded by the group is a song titled “Corpus Christi.” The session was in May 1979, and original guitarist Greg Ingraham had already departed, and was replaced with Brad Kent. The band still rocked as hard as ever though.

The “Pink” album has been reissued multiple times, but this Water Records release has got to be considered definitive. The first disc is the album as it was in 1983, all 14 tracks in the order they were first presented. Then there is a second CD of live and demo material. I have to be honest, a lot of these reissues that include a bonus disc of leftovers really do not do much for me. Hearing the band live is pretty cool, however, and that material is certainly recommended.

The EPs and eventual album were of a place and time that cannot be recreated. The period of 1977-1979 saw West Coast punk trying to figure out what it really even was. Avengers always seemed to know exactly who and what they were, however, even if their time together was to be all too brief. Hear it for yourself with this very cool re-issue.

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