Poison Idea - Feel the Darkness (Cover Artwork)

Poison Idea

Feel the Darkness (1990)

American Leather

I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts, the corpulent and charismatic guitarist for hardcore heavyweights Poison Idea, though I'm certainly proud of the music he left behind. A genre that he helped to create and sustain for future generations is now being tapped for the soundtracks to big budget movies and sporting events, and countless bands are raking in the dough by pedding diluted, market-friendly versions of his monster to teenagers in malls across America. Poison Idea was one of those bands of unsung heroes that went virtually unnoticed while more successful bands took elements of their style and broke through to mainstream audiences. The closest that Poison Idea's music has come to respectable exposure was when Pantera covered "The Badge" for the soundtrack to "The Crow" in 1994. Most people who bought that soundtrack all those years ago, myself included, thought the song was great, but never did any research into where it came from. As I rapidly grew bored with the stale platitudes of mainstream metal, I found out through a guy in a St. Louis record store that "The Badge" was a song by an old hardcore band from Portland, and my curiousity grew. I found this album in the "Punk" section a few years later and it still spins regularly while the soundtrack to Brandon Lee's last movie sits undisturbed and neglected in its plastic jewel case. I now feel obligated to explain why you should have this album.

"Plastic Bomb," the album's opening track, starts off with a brief, sinister-sounding piano intro before the guitar, drums and bass come crashing in all at once like a coordinated military strike. The track only picks up speed from there, as thundering drums and a fast, thrashy riff provide the cover for Jerry A's grunted vocals and a catchy Bad Religion-like chorus of "whoa-oh-ohs." This is one of the catchiest songs on the album, and you'll be humming it long after you've turned the CD off. The improperly named "Deep Sleep" kicks in next, for it's nearly impossible to sleep through the maelstrom of shredding guitars and an impressive virtuoso solo courtesy of Pig Champion, the fattest guitarist to ever play punk rock. The third song, "The Badge," is considered by many to be a quintessential Poison Idea song. Hundreds of punk bands have written songs about how much they hate the police, but Poison Idea's vicious, derisive tirade against officers of the law draws deeply from their own uniquely intelligent well of potent, sarcastic cynicism and is arranged perfectly on top of an equally vicious riff. It's not surprising that Pantera chose this song to cover.

The fourth track, "Just to Get Away," is pure, unadulterated rock and roll, the irreverent, scurrilious kind that parents were once threatened by, the kind that Lemmy and Iggy Pop would approve of. A true anthem of unapologetic hedonism, this song has it all -- quitting your job and telling your boss to shove it, hopping into a fast car with your underaged girlfriend and speeding off to a brighter horizon with your middle finger in the air. Even the uber-serious punk rock types who think it sounds corny will be tapping their toes, playing air drums and nodding their head along with the music. I could write a paragraph for every track on this album that I like, but I'm trying to keep this less than ten pages long, so I'll just hit some highlights. "Gone for Good" is full-on thrash with Jerry's rapid-fire raps on the dangers of environmental destruction in the name of corporate greed, while "Alan's on Fire" (often covered by Machine Head in concert) blends cryptic lyrics of a more personal nature within a churning hurricane of musical heaviness. The prescient "Nation of Finks" could have been written yesterday about our current Zeitgeist of fear, suspicion and "surveillance of the fittest." I'll leave the rest for you to enjoy.

With this album, Poison Idea have mixed in the perfect amounts of thrash metal, punk, hardcore and Motörhead-style rock and roll, and the result is a terrific hardcore masterpiece that balances circle pit volatility with catchy rock and roll grooves and seriousness with sarcasm, resulting in an often copied, rarely duplicated hybrid sound that is purely their own. Feel the Darkness is an album that you will come back to after listening to boring and unoriginal albums, and an album that you will use as a comparison standard for other releases of the same genre. If you're a punk, a hardcore kid or a headbanger, it simply doesn't get much better than this. Rest in peace, Tom. You're in no danger of being forgotten.