The phrase “underrated” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s a pretty apt description for legendary Oregon punks Poison Idea. These guys somehow never got the respect or notoriety that their contemporaries did, despite having their songs covered by everyone from Turbonegro to Machine Head to Pantera (yes, that fucking song from The Crow). Led by larger-than-life frontman Jerry A. and equally huge guitarist Pig Champion, PI were a force to be reckoned with, both musically and physically (legend has it that the band weighed over 1,300 lbs. at the height of their substance abuse days).
The ambitiously-titled Kings of Punk was Poison Idea‘s first full-length record, following a demo and a couple of EP releases. Perhaps because the band was still fairly new, the overall sound is typical of mid-80s hardcore, especially in the production department. Their trademark sound — a rock ‘n roll interpretation of punk via Motorhead and The Germs — is already apparent here, although the band regresses into stock hardcore riffage just as often. Tracks like “Ugly American” and “One By One” show that PI had actual songwriting chops, and hint just slightly at the direction they’d take on later releases. Other cuts like “Lifestyles” and “Subtract” could have been written by pretty much any hardcore band circa 1984, but get by on Jerry A.’s puke-encrusted vocals and Champion’s vicious guitar tone. Even if the band hadn’t quite found their style yet, the songs on Kings of Punk are still executed with conviction and energy (both chemically-enhanced and otherwise).
By now, you must be thinking, “But Señor Fisting, this album was released almost 30 years ago, I’ve heard the original version already! What about the bonus tracks?” Well, this reissue contains a ton (no pun intended) of live material taken from 3 shows in 1984, ’85 and ’86 respectively. The sound quality of the live tracks isn’t great, but Jerry A.’s awesomely drunk stage antics more than make up for it. The live sets also include covers of “Jailhouse Rock” and “Motorhead,” further driving home PI‘s rock roots. And supposedly the liner notes include all kinds of rare photos, flyers, etc. Overall, the bonus content is not essential, but it’s still pretty cool.
Kings of Punk may not be Poison Idea‘s best record or their most influential — that honor probably goes to 1990’s Feel The Darkness, considering that all the aforementioned cover songs come from there. But it’s still an important piece of history, the starting point of a band that appealed to headbangers just as much as punks. And more importantly, it’s a totally worthy blast of genuine old-school hardcore, the likes of which is seldom seen in the present day.