My love of hardcore and punk stretches back almost 30 years and in that time I’ve listened to them all but I am ashamed to say that Poison Idea completely passed me by. Until this new compilation of early releases and live tracks landed I had not heard a single note of their music. I have no idea why this is. In their heyday from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s they seemed almost omnipresent…maybe that’s why, my elitist punk rock mind couldn’t handle the amount of attention they seemed to get!!! Anyway, better late than never as they say and my Poison Idea cherry has been well and truly popped!!!
This compilation pulls together the band’s first “Pick Your King” 7”, the following 12”, “Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes”, four compilation tracks and a 19 track live set recorded in1983 in their hometown of Portland. I’m guessing most hardcore freaks and fans of the band will already own these so this review may be seen as preaching to the converted. On the other hand the last 30 years have seen a lot of new punk rockers emerge, and while many of these may be happy to settle for the piss weak approximation of punk as offered by limp shit like Green Day, they would all benefit from a dose of true hardcore rage to see what it is all about…and Poison Idea are a perfect introduction.
Kicking off in chronological order with the tracks from the “Pick Your King” 7”…13 tracks in 12 minutes. It’s clear that from early in their career Poison Idea were a brutal and above average hardcore band. For a start they could actually play, especially the tight lock-step drumming. Add to that Jerry A’s hoarse rasping howl and you have the blueprint for so many hardcore bands to follow. The production fares a lot better than most punk bands of the era but retains that raw edge that matches the intensity of the music. Admittedly you would be hard pushed to differentiate one track from the next as each follows the same template…play fast, slam out a three chord riff and head to the end…but that’s not the point, it’s the energy and vibe that really comes across.
Moving forward a year to 1984 to the “Record Collector’s Are Pretentious Assholes” 12” and we see a band that are sticking very firmly to their tried and tested hardcore blueprint but also see a band that are capable of transition. The songs are longer and more complex in structure…not by much but the progression is evident. The band are not averse to throwing in slower, almost metallic riffs from time to time and show diversity in their approach not seen on the earlier work. The playing has improved and guitarist Pig Champion has dialled in a guitar tone that is pure acidic fury that adds to the intensity and purely vicious nature of the band’s assault.
The four compilation tracks pick up right where the last release leaves off and show the level of progression is still evident but for the most part could have been included on “…Assholes”. All good though!!!
Possibly of most interest to Poison Idea fans will be the live set included here. It offers nothing new in terms of song choices for the most part but does show that, when unleashed into the live arena, Poison Idea were a pretty fearsome prospect playing a show that is brimful of raging punk rock fury but married up to a tight-as-a-gnat’s-anus performance. These guys knew their shit inside out and could take faces off at 30 paces. Ok, so the sound quality is a bit bootleggy but it has been cleaned up to the point where all the instruments are audible and it doesn’t suffer from that horrible tinny, bass free quality that so many punk live recording suffered from. There’s a bit of hiss but fuck it, when the band start playing it doesn’t really matter. It’s also worth noting that Jerry A manages to maintain his throat shredding yell without blowing his voice out completely…the dude is clearly a lifer!!!
45 tracks lasting around an hour is pretty punishing, particularly when the music on offer is as brutal and unrelenting as this but this release serves as a document of the genesis of one of America’s most respected punk bands and for that is an essential hardcore purchase…particularly for all these lame, panty-waste emo-screamo wankers. Get a dose of how punk rock should be done!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall