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Poison Idea - Confuse and Conquer LP
Southern Lord Recordings
Though Northwestern punk rock institution Poison Idea were active in touring and the occasional release of a split 7", their last album of completely new material before 2015's furious Confuse and Conquer came nearly ten years earlier with 2006's Latest Will and Testament. That album was recorded just before the death of long-standing guitarist Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts, who passed away before it was released. Though constant lineup changes ensued, original bandleader/vocalist Jerry A. is joined on Confuse and Conquer by a host of new bandmembers as well as once and future guitarist Eric "Vegetable" Olson, offering up a set of tunes that feel freshly anguished and uproarious rather than aiming to re-create the energy of the band in their earlier incarnations. The grizzly punk spirit of early-'80s Poison Idea is very much intact, especially on snotty burners like "I Never Heard of You," or speed demon hardcore blasts like "Cold Black Afternoon" and "Beautiful Disaster." "Psychic Wedlock" begins with dark, ceremonious piano before launching into a rugged riff co-opted in part from Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral" but sped up to an unhinged degree. "Hypnotic" is the band's gnarled take on pop music, with a nearly melodic midtempo chord progression and cheerleader-esque backing vocals supporting Jerry A.'s nihilistic lyrics. The breakdown finds him offering up a spoken soliloquy about his earlier days of getting high and soaking in the punk rock lifestyle. It's one of the stranger tracks on the album but does much to reinforce just how little Poison Idea is interested in turning in a carbon copy of something they've already done. All told, Confuse and Conquer is an artistic success as much as it is a solid punk album, with the band comfortable enough in their vision to place dyed-in-the-wool hardcore tunes next to oddball country & western experiments like "Dead Cowboy" without the least bit of hesitation or apology.