The Accidental Punk

Avengers frontwoman Penelope Houston tried to escape punk, but history pulled her back in

Houston's forthcoming solo album, Tongue, chronicles the same failed relationships and emotional angst as her previous work. However, its crisp, rock-oriented production and rhythms could baffle her following, which has enjoyed lilting ballads and mandolin leads for the past decade.

Houston describes the CD as "more tough and more rock, and more experimental and more distortion." Not to mention more radio-friendly -- it features a slew of old-school rock musicians with California punk and new-wave roots: the Go-Go's Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin, American Music Club's Tim Mooney, and Green on Red's Chuck Prophet.

The Avengers' legacy has attracted newer talent too. Big fan and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong produced a pair of songs for Houston; one, "The Angel and the Jerk," recently aired on Friends.

A band once known to scream a chorus of "Fuck you" on occasion, the Avengers still attract people searching for punk nostalgia. "We were really young," Houston says. "We had all this energy and we were innocents in a way. It was before cynicism became a big part of pop culture.

"Maybe that's what people miss -- being able to see bands that are sincere and have tons of energy."

The re-formed Avengers (billed as the Scavengers), play Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), with the Hi-Fives and Pansy Division. Tickets are $10; call 885-0754. They also play Friday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman, Berkeley, with American Steel, Eyeliners, and Cuts. Tickets are $5 ($7 without Gilman membership); call (510) 525-9926.

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