Poison Idea - Confuse & Conquer (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Poison Idea

Confuse & Conquer (2015)

Southern Lord

Poison Idea formed in Portland, Oregon way back in 1980. Their first big influence was Darby Crash and The Germs. Their earliest material shared that same sense of nihilism and chaos. They would go on to influence a slew of bands in the northwest and beyond. The grunge bands in particular would embrace a similar worldview and lifestyle, even if the musical similarities were more subtle. Poison Idea was the embodiment of live fast, die young.

The fact that Poison Idea has survived for 35 years is fairly remarkable. It would seem unlikely that a band so hell-bent on self-destruction would live to such a ripe old age. That's not to say there haven't been some casualties along the way. Confuse & Conquer is the first new Poison Idea material since the death of long-time guitarist Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts. Pig Champion, along with vocalist/founder Jerry A, had been the public face of the band for years. To move forward, the band reached into its past. Jerry A brought back former lead guitarist Eric "Vegetable" Olson, whose influence is all over this record.

Any fears you may have about this version of Poison Idea are calmed about 30 seconds into the first song, "Bog". It's a ripper, as is the second track "Me & JD". These songs, like the rest of the record, have tons of great guitar leads and solos. Olson's style is reminiscent of Motorhead or Kill 'Em All era Metallica. The music as a whole walks the line between punk, hardcore and thrash, with Jerry A's raspy growl leading the way.

On the third song, things take a turn for the weird. "Psychic Wedlock" is over four and a half minutes long, and has multiple musical movements. It starts with a piano intro before launching into more familiar thrash-punk. Then there's a slow, trippy middle section before it gets heavy again to wrap things up. The song has a dense, drugged-out vibe, and is an interesting musical adventure. "Hypnotic" feels like Poison idea's stab at classic rock, complete with honky-tonk piano. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work. "Trip Wire" gets things back on track musically, but features a strange, out of place, overly happy sounding guitar solo.

"I Never Heard of You" is angry and antagonistic. "Cold Black Afternoon" is dark and claustrophobic. "Dead Cowboy is Poison Idea's version of country. They sound like the house band from a haunted saloon in a Quentin Tarantino movie. It's a cool song and provides a bit of sonic diversity. "Rhythms of Insanity" and "Beautiful Disaster" are classic, vicious Poison Idea. Confuse & Conquer ends with "Psychic Wedlock Reprise". It returns to the slow, trippy part of "Psychic Wedlock" before finishing with a piano outro. It's an interesting ending to a satisfying listen.

Southern Lord has been doing the punk rock world a great service by re-issuing deluxe versions of the early Poison Idea albums. They are promising to work their way through the entire catalogue. Kings Of Punk, Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes and Pick Your King are once again widely available. New material is icing on the cake. Confuse & Conquer is definitely more musically complex than those early recordings. The songs are longer and a little of the nihilism and hedonism has been tempered by age. Fortunately, there is still plenty of bile, animosity and caustic thought to go around. This is another prime example of old timers making a great new punk record.