Monday, June 05, 2017
Prior to listening to this last month, I hadn't heard it in easily over 20 years. It was originally released in 1987, my brother bought it in early 1988, and it was a firm fave in the Lang household during the late '80s. For a few years there - well, for a number of years - Portland's Poison Idea were seen as thee band who were still holding the candle/flying the flame for HARDCORE, a genre of music which for many had fizzled out into a puddle of gooey uselessness by mid-decade, and their 1990 LP, Feel The Darkness, was widely hailed as a landmark punker release of its day (which I guess it was, and I was certainly in thrall to it at the time, too - another curious fact, since I considered myself pretty much totally over hardcore at that stage, but we'll talk about that later. Allow me to please exit this parentheses....)
But anyway, getting back to it: I hadn't heard this LP since probably prior to Bill Clinton getting blown in the Oval Office, and then it gets reissued on wax, I order a few copies for the shop (along with copies of Kings Of Punk, their debut LP from '86), and I figure I should give it a spin. After all, I loved the shit out of it as a 16-year-old, most of the music I liked as a 16-year-old seems to've held up well (true!), so what could possibly go wrong? To be honest, I was mighty cautious, and even a little afraid, of listening to this again. What if it sounds totally overblown and corny now? What if it just sounds like some sort of lame punk/metal crossover malarky, the kind of stuff I didn't like at the time, anyway? Anyway, I shat, got off the pot and spun the disk. I needn't have worried for a goddamn second. War All The Time hit me like a freakin' rock to the head - a good rock, if that's possible.
I must've listened to the thing a thousand times back in the day, coz I remembered every second of it, every riff, every cowbell hit, every bark from Jerry A's throat. They were indeed something special. Poison Idea had been kicking around since 1982, which I guess makes them a second-generation HC band, as the whole 'movement' was well into full swing by then. 1987 might seem kinda late for a sophomore LP from an '82 HC act, though they had a swag of 7"s and EPs under their belt - the perfect HC formats. Heavily influenced by the Germs, Black Flag and early Discharge, the two-pronged fat-fuck attack of vocalist Jerry A with deceased guitarist Pig Champion was something to behold. Throw in a kick-arse drummer such as Slayer Hippy and it's unstoppable. They were degenerate mofos who were dead-set on drinking and drugging themselves to death (Pig Champion succeeded), were openly scornful of punk-rock poster-boy Ian MacKaye and his wowserisms, and back in 1990 when shit-rock of the Dwarves/Antiseen variety was all the rage in the punk underground, as the likes of Fugazi (who I loved) and Bad Religion (who I didn't) were beginning their ascent into the sales/public consciousness stratosphere, Poison Idea seemed like a mighty good throwback to the HC halcyon days of '81/'82 when the bands meant serious business when it came to being arse-kicking shitheads who made a racket to beat your head against the wall to.
And you can certainly do that with War All The Time. It's got a bit of a Motorhead (they cover 'Motorhead' here, natch) vibe throughout and maybe even an ounce of early Slayer pummel, but mostly this sounds like Why?-period Discharge with better production. The opening trinity of 'The Temple', 'Romantic Self Destruction' (the best track here) and 'Push The Button' will make you a believer. Like I said, the band made the big time with 1990's Feel The Darkness, released a bunch more material in the '90s and I lost track somewhere along the way. Jerry A still carries the band name today, though I'm pretty sure he's the only original member left. He actually toured here as Poison Idea last year, and I was very reluctant to attend what I presumed would be a bit of a trainwreck (or at least a shadow of its former glory), though friends with brain cells who attended informed me it was much better than expected. I will carry on. For a few years Poison Idea were the biz - they hold up. Do it.