Poison Idea - The Fatal Erection Years
Southern Lord's continuing effort to rerelease vintage Poison Idea music is a welcome chance to give them their due. Portland was not Hermosa Beach or San Pedro, but it was as much a hotbed of early 80s hardcore as any scene in any town. On the heels of last year's "Darby Crash Rides Again," "The Fatal Erection Years" covers a lot of ground within the band's ferocious and lasting contribution to that legendary 1983-86 period of hardcore.
This is a heroic dose: 45 tracks, drawn from live shows, EPs, and some compilation tracks. You may need time to digest this over a few days, but even then some of the gristle will remain. Then again, this is 80s hardcore, so the entire set only lasts about 46 minutes. Poison Idea specialized in a brand of punk that anticipated lo-fi sludge, due mostly to the legendary man-mountain Tom "Pig Champion" Roberts, though the dissolute, confrontational rasp of vocalist Jerry A played no small role.
To be able to have their first EP, "Pick Your King," and the classic "Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes" 12 back on the radar is more than welcome. Not only the rage and humor of songs like "It's and Action," "Pure Hate" and "Rubber Husband" are lifelines into the best values of hardcore, but the obvious joy of letting loose fearlessly with ultra-wattage behind them, is still exhilarating. Roberts' guitar is both a buzzsaw and sandpaper on the brain. A's vocals on the compilation track "Die On Your Knees" is a blueprint for hardcore frontman. Much has been made of his debt to Darby Crash, and here you can see why in all its sloppy, self-destructive but transcendent fury.
A great surprise is the inclusion of a nineteen song live show from Portland's The Met from '83. Here is where anyone on the fence will fall right into their lap. Even if you hate hardcore, the pure joyful madness of live versions of "(I Hate) Reggae,""Marked For Life," and the enduring classic "My Hard-On Withers In Your Face" will help you surrender to a band saturated with the spirit of rebellion, despair and aggression that epitomized the era. Poison Idea were not leaders because the idea of trailblazers in the 1980-85 hardcore era is absurd. They were just a band among many who figured they had nothing to lose and nothing better to do but go balls out, and if it lasted one more night or a few years it was cool. Certainly they lasted a long time, into the new century, even, when the death of Pig Champion made going on becoming the very kind of band hardcore raged against: bands that pointlessly play out the string. As "The Fatal Erection Years" proves and reminds us, Poison Idea were anything but pointless.
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