Since its inception, punk rock was less of a term defined by the artists making it than an invention of critics to describe a bold new sound. What started out as a reaction against “show pony” guitar players soon became a dogma of imitation. Doc Martens, shaved heads and sleeveless shirts went from being the pragmatic byproduct of the truly blue collar lifestyle to outright haute couture. While the first wave of punk rockers had been filled with a justified and honest righteous rage, the following years would see that idea devolve into a sense of solipsistic entitlement. Even the signature furious sound of the first few desperate hours of punk quickly became something easily imitable and a cover for poor musicianship. Though hardcore would eventually flourish as a reaction against what punk had become, even they would admit that the punk rock of yesteryear was officially dead. Enter Poison Idea to help nail that final nail into punk rock’s casket.
From the beginning, Poison Idea was always a band living in the shadows of their betters. Though they shared their generation’s love for Black Flag, lead singer Jerry A had an undeniable hard-on for Darby Crash of the Germs, who he tried his hardest to imitate. Poison Idea’s identity crisis comes through clearest on Darby Crash Rides Again: the Early Years, a new compilation of the first EP, demos, and a promo spot on a Portland radio station’s pledge drive.
Though guitarist Chris Tense shows his chops every once in a blue moon, particularly on longer tracks like “Ugly American” and “Motorhead,” he quickly switches back to the standard punk fight riff. What kills Poison Idea is Jerry A.’s total lack of charisma. He seems to be running through his lyrics like a to-do list. More than anything else, Darby Crash Rides Again: the Early Years is a living example for the next generation of the pitfalls of trying to make genre music. Who knows? This might help breathe a little bit of much-need iconoclasm back into punk rock.