Back with a vengeance

San Francisco punks the Avengers are enjoying a decade-plus reunion

San Francisco wrecking crew the Avengers like so many of their peers could’ve built a lasting legacy based on their first run. Existing during the fertile punk years from 1977 to 1979 they released a perfect hardcore-inflected punk song in the We Are the One single (via the incomparable Dangerhouse Records) recorded some music with the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones after opening for the band and soon called it quits.

“It wasn’t my decision I was not really in on that decision” frontwoman Penelope Houston tells me. “We had been playing together for two years at the time which seemed like a really long time back then…. I was sad about it but I went on to do other stuff.”

That other stuff has included an impressive solo career as an alternative folk artist. “When I was a kid I listened to Pentangle and Incredible String Band” she recalls. “I was into that stuff before I listened to punk. Then when I got back into music years after I guess five years after the Avengers I had been listening to the Violent Femmes and Tom Waits and weird folky stuff and that’s the direction I decided to go.”

Houston’s solo career has been impressive to say the least. Since 1988 she’s released 14 acclaimed solo albums including last year’s On Market Street and amassed a worldwide following in her own right. Still for decades there was still a subset of people who were obsessed with her early accomplishments.

“There was a point before we re-formed when I was just like ‘Please stop asking me about this’” she says with a laugh. The prodding paid off however as the band decided to give it another go in 1999 when Lookout! Records issued the compilation album Died for Your Sins . “We decided to do three songs that we didn’t have very good versions of” she recalls. “[Founding guitarist Greg Ingraham] and I got together and recorded them with Joel Reader from Mr. T Experience at the time and Danny Panic who was in Screeching Weasel. We had a really good time just recording those and then when the record came out Lookout! was like ‘Let’s do a record release party.’”

That show went off without a hitch and the reunion has basically been going strong since then though Panic’s been replaced with Pansy Division drummer Luis Illades.

In that time they’ve managed to secure the rights for a proper reissue of their seminal 1983 self-titled album (commonly known as The Pink Album ) which was recently issued on an expanded CD and new vinyl pressing.

They’ve also been making up for lost time on the road. “The Avengers only played the West Coast we never even made it to the East Coast or anywhere else” she says. “This reunited band has played Europe four or five times we played England a few times we got to play a few shows in Canada.” Still there’s one dream that they’ve yet to conquer. “I’m still holding out for Japan I’m waiting for Japan to somehow come together. That’s one of my goals before putting this back on the shelf.”

You read that right — even though the reunion lineup has dwarfed the original band’s run with more than a decade spent together Houston has no ambitions to keep doing this for the rest of her life. “I can’t see myself doing this forever” she says. “I went and saw Iggy on his 60th birthday in San Francisco and he was really amazing…. But there’s a limit.”

Having said that don’t expect a band of tired old rockers when the Avengers hit The Palomino on Friday September 20. “People say ‘Wow I can’t believe you guys did that’ or ‘Wow that sounds exactly like The Pink Album .’ I mean Greg and I are 35 years older than when we were first doing it so it is a little different but the sound if you close your eyes….”