Before hardcore injected testosterone into its bloodstream, punk was more open to female expression than the cock-rock world it fought against. Good thing, because otherwise we might never have heard the Avengers
. Behind blonde bulldog Penelope Houston, the San Francisco quartet dubbed 1977 the "Summer of Hate" and recorded a stack of American punk classics, prefiguring the star-spangled disgust of hardcore but in more melodic, '77 terms. Of course, the band fell apart within a year or two. But after a long folk-pop career, Houston joined original guitarist Greg Ingraham in 1999 for a new album and the occasional tour. Once they were the best band in America not named the Ramones now the Avengers are the best '70s punk band alive.