Died For Your Sins - (1999)
Although it remains a secret, the two greatest U.S. punk bands walked this earth in the late '70s, the Weirdos and the Avengers. Due to the paucity of indie labels and stores at the time, their stunning live sets went down to history, documented by a couple of barely distributed singles and EPs. Thus, their historical legends were such that both groups were exhumed by seminal retrospective LPs. However, this secret has had the surprising effect of forcing Avengers frontwoman Penelope Houston to raid her own vaults for recordings, something she seemed unwilling to do for two decades. The first happy result is this burning piece of plastic. The second is a reunion with guitarist Greg Ingraham to record three '77 songs for the first time, which stack up to the original days. Houston found no less than seven "new" originals and eight unheard alternate versions of the songs that forged the band's lasting reputation. Best of all, since 16 of the 18 cuts are live on stage or in rehearsal, one can best see what they had to offer in their natural habitat. No modern punk outfit could match this breakneck drive, this pulsing energy, and most of all this indomitable spirit of conviction. Even on the one or two live cuts where the sound quality is a tad submerged, the blast of the band and the painful edge is shocking. Though The Avengers remains the best document for newcomers, since it benefits from studio quality, Died is nevertheless a motherload. Whether you're a fanatic or curious, if the speed and adrenaline in these recordings don't make the hairs on your arms stand up, you're probably on downers. After all, this is the band that blew the Sex Pistols off the stage at their final gig.