Come in, sit down, what seems to be the problem? no, don’t tell me, let’s guess:
- Have you just been hit firmly amidships by an armoured rhinoceros?
- Has a 747 just run over your head on take off?
- Have you been comically flattened by a steam roller in a Hanna Barbera cartoon?
- Has someone just dropped a piano on your head in an old Harold Lloyd film?
- Has a very bad man been shouting at you?
- Or have you just been listening to Poison Idea’s last ever LP?
Released in 2015, the prophetically titled, Confuse & Conquer was released 9 years after their last outing and split following the death of their guitarist Pig Champion* on one of my favourite record labels, Southern Lord, I had to own this beastie. It’s great from the stained cardboard and masking tape cover art, through to the wonderfully teenage-y drawing of Baphomet on the inside sleeve, through to the sticker on the front cover promising ‘complete filth and mayhem for a new era!’**. Apparently, it’s even got music on it too! Who knew?
Unusually Confuse & Conquer starts with a wistful accordion-led waltz, where singer Jerry A entertains us with a list of all the things he loves most in this world. Some of the viola work on this track is worth the price of the LP (plus shipping) alone, although he loses marks for rhyming ‘puppy’s noses’ with ‘posies’; but it really does set the standards high for the rest of the album. Don’t just take my word for it though, turn up the volume and check it out:
‘BOG’ is really rather good, right up to Poison Idea’s, very speedy, standards with some great metal guitar from Eric ‘The Vegetable’ Olsen, some sterling bass grumbling from Chris ‘Spider’ Carey and some hard hitting from Nathan ‘Skinny’ Richardson^. A proper fist in your face opener. I’m less enamoured of ‘Trip Wire’, it just sounds a little slow for my tastes although I am a bit of a sucker for any song that includes some good background ‘Whoa-oaa‘s. We get right back on course with ‘Me + JD’, Christ knows what it’s about but Jerry A shouts ‘Die!’ a lot towards the end^^. Hey Jerry A, why isn’t there a lyric sheet with the album?
The spirit of my beloved Feel The Darkness is summoned by the piano intro of ‘Psychic Wedlock’ which is a proper raving diatribe about the evils of drugs; well, I’m about 65% sure of that anyway, it can be a bit difficult to tell. Again there are some great metallic guitar flourishes tacked on amidst the heaviness and some intriguing Monster Magnet-y space stonerisms in the slow-y down bit in the middle – imagine breeding Lemmy and Dave Wyndorf … well, not the actual act, let’s just fixate on the end product.
We get a real curveball next on ‘Hypnotic’, the music slows down to a drunken reel and we’re in Social Distortion territory, with lots of ‘Hey!‘s and, be still my beating heart, ‘whoa!‘s. Then it all goes a bit tuneful, in a reassuringly wonky manner, with middle 8’s, lady screams and a tasteful solo. I listen to this track a lot, particularly the talkie bit^* about psychedelic drugs near the end. The whole shebang is a real departure for Poison Idea and I really dig it.
There’s a bit of a misfire on side 2 opener ‘I Don’t Know’ which is a bit slow and boring, which is immediately expunged from the memory with two awesomely fast rippers, proper hardcore just like grandma used to bake*^, the best of which is ‘The Rhythms of Insanity’. I’m also very partial to the straight-up spaghetti Western ‘Dead Cowboy’, replete with a drawled vocal, whipcracks, beautifully atmospheric guitar picking and gentle ‘whoooaaa‘s in the background. It sets it all up nicely for the, frankly venomous, closer, ‘Beautiful Disaster’ and ‘Reprise’, which is a bit of satanic sodding about that I could have done without, it wasn’t needed.
So that’s Confuse & Conquer done then and that’s Poison Idea done too. Two months into touring the LP they announced a hiatus to address ‘health and personal issues’ and then there was an announcement that as of January 1st 2017 Poison Idea were no more. Sad.
There are some great tracks on Confuse & Conquer and a whole chunk o’ fun to be had too. It is an enjoyable, coherent album to chuck on when you’re in the right mood but even at its best it doesn’t quite scale some of their previous heights but I suspect that’s a product of the pinnacles of filth and mayhem they scaled back in the days of Record Collector’s Are Pretentious Assholes, rather than any real deficiencies in the here and now.
Let it rock.
737 Down (in the mosh pit)
*Tom Roberts to give him his true given name, but I think of him as Pig.
**I like the committment here, ‘complete filth’, there is very little as dispiriting to me as partial filth. If you’re going to get your filth on, then get your filth on! (as my grandmother never used to say).
^as I’m feeling a little underlabelled in the ‘name’ department, I insist that for the remainder of this review you address me as 15 ‘Fluffy’ 37.
^^or I may have misheard and the song is about revitalizing your Spring wardrobe cheaply and Jerry is in fact shouting ‘Dye! Dye!’ repeatedly.
^*TALKIE BIT!!! I love talkie bits, I may not have mentioned this for a while. TALKIE BITS!
*^back in ’81 when she played bass in Wanking Threat.