The spiky aspirations of their debut album and first few singles notwithstanding, Penetration was always a more convincing hard rock band than most punks gave them credit for. The glee with which they unveiled a twin-guitar lineup, the faith they placed in songs with titles like "She Is the Slave" and "Shout Above the Noise," and, if hindsight be the guide, the accuracy with which they predicted the entire New Wave of British Heavy Metal outbreak -- all these things place Penetration in a very different bag to that they normally wriggle around in. Guitarist Fred Purser went on to form the Tygers of Pan Tang. That should tell you everything. Released in late 1979, their second album, Coming Up for Air, is the sound of the group embracing that destiny. Critically pummeled at the time and often overlooked thereafter, it is a far cry from the scratchy urchins who unleashed "Don't Dictate" a mere year earlier, a rip-roaring, riff-heavy leviathan that places its focus on Purser and Neale Floyd's wailing guitars, then layers Pauline Murray's banshee-bark vocals atop of them. Unfortunately, in ripping apart the punk formbook, Penetration also tore up their songwriting manual. Without exception, the ten songs on the original album are uniformly leaden, while two live bonus tracks merely amplify the band's lumpen metal pretensions. Only "Danger Signs," the third bonus track and the band's last memorable single, stands proud, but even that is not a recommendation.
Coming Up for Air Review
by Dave Thompson