Saturday, July 10, 2010

Penelope Houston: Cut You (1996)

(As published in B-Side ... )

Penelope Houston
Cut You

Nearly twenty years after she came and went as the leader of San Francisco's punk Avengers, Penelope Houston is back with an album that's part sampler (eight re-recorded songs from her recent Europe-only releases), part new EP (six new ones), and only a little too long for all that. Not that the credits say what's new and what's old. So whether she's a slowly maturing folky with an unusual affinity for distilling her internationally acquired influences into a potent brew (as the mandolin-enriched “Secret Sign,” “Sweetheart,” “Scratch,” “Locket,” and “Harry Dean” would indicate) or whether she's a slowly deliquescing singer-songwriter who can't quite bring herself to call it quits (as the wordy and amelodic “Fuzzy Throne,” “Pull,” and title cut would indicate) is impossible to tell. Meanwhile, punk hasn’t disappeared entirely from her program. On both “Ride” and “Glad I'm a Girl,” she recalls Debbie Harry without tripping nostalgia alarms. But since when do purveyors of feminist punk-pop anthems call themselves "girls" in the first place? Apparently since they first realized that career longevity sometimes involves the gradual working out of contradictions over a long period of time.

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