Poison Idea's Confuse & Conquer Could Unite Generations Of Hardcore Fans
Poison Idea, an underground force in American hardcore, whose influence spans from Nirvana to Machine Head just put out their first album in nine years 'Confuse & Conquer'. Whether you've waited this entire space of time for this release, or this is the first time you've heard the name, you're in for a treat, provided you need some nasty jams to headbang to.
It's a frenetic work of hardcore punk with songs encased within a layer of grit which adds an extra crunch to a barrage of classic punk riffs. Straight from the lightning paced opener "Bog", the band are at their noisiest, with a full performance which feels fun at first, but vocalist Jerry Lang quickly drags us into his haven of unsettling darkness as he screams "Down below, down so deep, whispering, now gently go to sleep" right before Eric Olson launches into a guitar solo that would make you do anything but nod off.
This raw energy comprises much of the album, from the double threat of "Trip Wire" and "I Don't Know You" to the supersonic viciousness of "Cold Black Afternoon", although we can also find moments where the pace is taken down, such as the mid-section of 'Psychic Wedlock' as the band settle into sludge metal riffing to create a more harrowing atmosphere.
Diversifying the sound doesn't always result in success. 'Hypnotic' sees Nathan Richardson switch things up by introducing a ska melody on drums, similar to the times Rancid have used the same approach. But this generally works with Tim Armstrong's crew because their songs with ska are usually very life-affirming. On 'Confuse & Conquer', this arrangement just feels like a deterrent from the gloom.
And while the slower songs feel distracting, there's the opposing problem with this album that after hearing several hardcore songs played one after another, they do begin to mesh together, and making the album feel one-dimensional. But this doesn't stop the group from reaching the high ends of this single dimension. Every punk song on this album is brilliantly written and captures Lang's fury and cynicism to a tee. And it's inspiring be reminded that Poison Idea remains the blueprint sound for a lot of today's must-see hardcore bands, particularly Trash Talk.
The generational factor, is 'Confuse & Conquer' so great? For previous Poison Idea fans, it's a great comeback album, and for younger hardcore lovers, it's a great chance to acquaint oneself with one of the genres finest cult and find and fall in love with their deeper cuts from here.
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Words by Andy Davidson