|Penelope Houston starring as The Pale Green Girl, supporting cast includes Pat Johnson...
You may know Penelope Houston as the fierce teenage singer/lyricist of San Francisco's seminal late 70's punk band The Avengers, or as the Queen of Folk-Rock (as she was called in Germany during the early 1990's). Perhaps you've checked out her various award-winning pop/rock excursions during her tenure on Warner Brothers/Reprise just a few years ago. But now, on her first studio album in 5 years, Penelope is back with longtime guitarist and songwriting collaborator Pat Johnson to present their new album The Pale Green Girl.
Not really a movie soundtrack (although you gotta love that faux film poster artwork) the title track was inspired by Joanne Woodward's role in The Fugitive Kind. On these new recordings Penelope explores a few different sonic directions. Long gone is the acoustic guitar/mandolin/string bass ensemble now replaced by electric guitar/garage-organ and piano. The plugged-in instrumention compliments the darker themes in her songwriting and more complex arrangements overall. The songs are pop-influenced, but are not the sweeter pop themes of Penelope's previous releases. There's a broader range of influences being brought in this time around.
Multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Pat Johnson (who has worked with everyone from Royal Trux to Charlie Pickett) brings his vast knowledge of the past 40 years of popular music to the arrangements and production of this album. Although Penelope has recorded several of Pat's hit songs in the past (think of him as Serge Gainsbourg to her Jane Birkin) they've shed that skin. This time they wrote, arranged and produced much of the material together, resulting in a distinctly different sound.
It was recorded in glorious analog with a full band, including drummer Eljohn Nelson of Poi Dog Pondering. The album contains 10 originals plus one John Cale cover, Buffalo Ballet, taken from his brilliant 1974 album Fear. Highlights include the Kinks-inspired lead-off track Take My Hand, Soul Redeemer, the true story of a female cop killer on Floridas Death Row (written before the film Monster), and "Hole," a cautionary tale for rehab junkies, with music co-written with guitar maverick Chuck Prophet.
Reviews from her first Warner/Reprise album Cut You:
Newsweek "We need to invent a new genre for Penelope Houston... smart, literate music made without compromise."
Billboard "...like a beam of sunlight on a dreary winter morning. A rare find."
Rolling Stone 3*** "Its never too late to become a rediscovered legend. Tied together with gossamer vocals and lyrics that invert the accusations of punk. The result is inspiring: Now, Houston finally displays the strength to face whatever demons lie beyond anger."
Raygun "...smart, articulate and devoid of artifice."
For her second WEA release, Tongue, Penelope worked with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Charlotte Caffey & Jane Weidlin (ex-GoGos), Chuck Prophet and members of American Music Club and the Counting Crows, blending her influences of punk, folk, rock, and Americana.
Rolling Stone (German edition) gave it 3+1/2 stars
Music Express Sounds gave it 5 stars
Spin calls it "The album the Cardigans only dream of making."
Stereo Review 4 stars. "Smart and charismatic, sexy as hell."
With The Pale Green Girl, Penelope continues the timeline she began in 1977 with a career that explores vital musical ground, lyrics that breed independent thinking and a persona thats earned her lifelong rabid fans. Shes building the legend song by song.
Buy it here.
Press release for the Avengers CD