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Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

APRIL 26, 1999: 

Avengers

Died For Your Sins
(Lookout)

CONTRARY TO POPULAR belief, the greatest California punk band to surface after the Sex Pistols disintegrated in 1978 was not Black Flag, Circle Jerks, X or Dead Kennedys. It was the criminally under-appreciated and far superior Avengers led by venom-tongued screamer Penelope Houston, the roughest, toughest and most beautiful female punk singer of all time (screw Courtney Love). The San Francisco-based Avengers' highly combustible pre-hardcore primitivism has finally been resurrected (their sparse recording output has been bootlegged and unavailable for years) and documented properly with this superb retrospective of live concert debauchery and rare, unreleased rehearsal and studio outtakes. Houston's harsh, indignant and always-passionate vocals are exposed in all their volatile, emotional intensity. On the magnificent punk battle anthems of "The American In Me," "Car Crash" and "We Are The One," the ragged, driving instrumentation of Greg Ingram (guitar), Danny Furious (drums) and Jimmy Wilsy (bass) detonates with the bloody destruction of a missile attack on Serbia. Meanwhile, Houston snarls and spits out the caustic lyrics like the younger, tough-as-nails sister of Johnny Rotten. Billed as the Scavengers, three newly recorded tracks by Houston and Ingram have been added as a bonus, and these 1998 recordings sizzle with the brute force and arresting power of the seminal line-up 20 years before. --Ron Bally



Various Artists

Music from the Motion Picture Go
(Sony)

PHILIP STEIR'S SCRATCH-heavy remix of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" makes this disc worth the purchase price...its blend of rock and rave miraculously keeps it viable in both genres, something I don't think has ever been done so successfully. Unfortunately, this disc starts out with an out-of-place and annoying number by No Doubt, but if you can get past that, it's an otherwise decent and consistent beat recording. Like all soundtrack albums, this one has a cut by Fatboy Slim, who, like God, is invisible but omnipresent. Fatboy's "Gangster Tripping" is a bubbly ska-influenced heavy-beat number, with horns and party sounds giving a high end to its deep-bass cut and mix. One of the odder numbers here is Jimmy Luxury and the Tommy Rome Orchestra's rap and beat remix of Dean Martin's "Cha Cha Cha D'Amore," which may be the first lounge rap recording. Synergy is what makes the entertainment industry move these days, though, and "Cha Cha" is way better than the upcoming Shakespearean- teen-film-in-outer-space trend. Goldo's "To All The Lovely Ladies" includes a Peter Frampton credit, not exactly obligatory in even the smoothest of rap songs. The chorus is played through the vocoder that Frampton made famous in "Do You Feel Like I Do," but has a slinkier and funkier feel (no doubt). Other highlights include a cut from Air (credited, as they often are in America, as Air French Band) and DJ Rap's "Good To Be Alive." The overall feel is mellow-out rave, heavy on the mellow. None of it has Curtis Mayfield's feel for the genre, but it mostly aims in that direction, and only misses by a little. Perfect for taking the edge off the final hour of a bad trip. --James DiGiovanna



Living End

Self-titled
(Reprise)

IMAGINE THE STRAY Cats fused with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, then decided to reproduce with Green Day while on tour in Australia. The greasy rockabilly-meets-ska punk trio the Living End would materialize quicker than a "Crocodile Dundee" rerun on a cable movie channel. Mix in the heavy metal power chords and brash, comical balderdash of the Rev. Horton Heat, add the slick pompadour hairstyles, tattoos and obligatory stand-up bass, and the punk-derived, beat heavy '50s-meets-'80s formula perfected by Mr. Setzer & Co. is complete for the Living End to exploit further. Lurking beneath this Setzer-meets-Billie Joe Armstrong pop sensibility is the metallic UK street punk credo of the uproarious Sham 69. Setzer's incendiary fretwork is brought to satisfactory fruition by Melbourne-bred guitar basher Chris Cheney only during the pseudo-classical instrumental scorcher "Closing In." "Monday" pushes "Nimrod"-era Green Day to the brink of cheekiness with a slinky ska groove that bounces along cheerfully, leaving the ghost of Billie Joe in the lurch searching for the punk rock bandwagon that's escaped him. "All Tore Down" follows in a similar ska-inflected tone leaving the neo-rockabilly riffs in the closet awaiting the next commercially approved revival. "Trapped" evokes a horn-rich dance hall skank if the Smiths were hosting the festivities: a catchy guitar riff decimated by depressing lyrics and an overbearing brass section. Too many loopy ska arrangements and heavy metal histrionics, and not enough of the captivating rockabilly beat and punk rock vigor, ruin the Living End's noble attempt at amalgamating different rock-and-roll sub-genres. --Ron Bally


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