Poison Idea – Confuse And Conquer LP/CD (Southern Lord)

Back with their first full length in nine years come Portland, Oregon’s Poison Idea. Who? Hmm, well they started out in the early 80’s bashing out uncompromising hardcore punk with the likes of the ‘Pick Your King’ and ‘Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes’, brandishing a beer and influencing many.

As the decade dragged on, the line-up and music developed mixing more metallic elements into the mix, but without losing any of their basic punk rock sneer and songwriting style, the result saw them emerge as a gigantic punk rock war machine on such powerhouse classics as ‘War all the Time’, ‘Feel the Darkness’ and ‘Blank Blackout Vacant’.

They continued off and on over the intervening years, last releasing ‘Latest Will and Testament’ in 2006, but after the death of original guitarist and record collector Tom ‘Pig Champion’ Roberts, no-one knew what, if anything, would happen next, which brings us to the present and ‘Confuse And Conquer’.

The album opens with ‘Bog’ which could easily sit on any of their early records; fast and economic hardcore with their sonic imprint very much intact. Mainstay Jerry A’s unmistakeable vocal growl is in full effect, as is the returning Vegetable’s guitar leads. The record continues throughout side one in time worn Poison Idea fashion, from the Off! style riff of ‘Me + JD’ to the shout-a-long anthems ‘Hypnotic’ and ‘Trip Wire’, but it’s on side two that Jerry and the boys really get the bit between their collective teeth.

The flip opens with slow burner ‘I Don’t Know You’, piling vitriol and scorn upon some unknown offender in true Poison Idea fashion. Next up ‘Cold Blue Afternoon’ sees a quick return to eyebrow singeing hardcore, and the same approach is taken on ‘The Rhythms of Insanity’ with Jerry A’s Cascadian howl turning guttural in places, revealing again the influence of Sakevi of GISM.

At this point, the album takes a quick turn off-road and down a dusty track to the Old West, with the inspired ‘Dead Cowboy’. With Spaghetti Western guitar and a Nick Cave vocal approach, it ends up somewhere between the Gun Club and Tom Waits. Raging hardcore is again the order of the day to close the album, with ‘Beautiful Disaster’ and ‘Reprise’, being the atmospheric piano intro of side one’s ‘Psychic Wedlock’, to end it.

Poison Idea are back, who knows for how long, but make the most of it by catching them live on tour, and getting your ears around this album, that sits neatly alongside their discography. ‘Confuse and Conquer’ will not disappoint both grizzled old punk cynics and fresh-faced newcomers alike.