Formed in the thick of the hardcore explosion, Poison Idea espoused a fuck-all attitude typical of their milieu. But even in its nihilism, punk could be as self-conscious as any other style du jour. Poison Idea, however, was completely lacking any such pretensions. The ferocity of their sonic attack was matched only by their taste for drugs, drink and junk food, and they became as known for their size as for their sound, the four-piece eventually collectively weighing in at more than 1,300 pounds. Such gluttony eventually took its toll, with guitarist Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts, one of the few constants in the band, dying at the age of 47 in 2006 after the band recorded their first album in 11 years, Latest Will and Testament. (Poison Idea had reformed in 1999 after breaking up in 1993.)
But the appetite that attributed to the band’s obesity also fueled their music. Few bands of the era were so consistent in creating records that not only continued to channel the ardor and vitriol of their earliest work, but also consistently challenged the status quo. (They were also one of the few not to attempt to crossover and attract the thrash metal crowd.) Like Portland during the time (it was yet to become a hipster destination), Poison Idea was wild and woolly, but they were never lashing about aimlessly. There was always a cohesiveness to everything they did, with the tumult always reaching a collective zenith.
You can hear such tenacity even on the band’s earliest recordings, which have been collectively released as Darby Crash Rides Again: The Early Years. Not only does the collection include the 1982 Darby Crash Rides Again demo from which it gets its name, but the previously unreleased Boner’s Kitchen demo from 1981, an uncut live-on-the-air set from a 1983 KBOO radio benefit, and outtakes from the Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes recording session. It amounts to 29 tracks in all, handsomely packaged with nice liner notes.
With the tracks restored and mastered by Jack Control, one can easily hear that, even at this early stage, the band was heads above many of its peers. The second of the two versions of “Give It Up” here is 45 seconds of pointed animosity. Singer Jerry A. may have been channeling Darby Crash, but his bellow transcends that of his hero. Cuts like “All Right” may defer to the hardcore template, but between Jerry’s gravelly tirades and Roberts’ shit-sharp riffs, even these rough takes stand out. The KBOO cuts are considerably less refined, but still shine through the white noise. Jerry does his best for the pledge-drive by telling listeners, “If you don’t call in, we’re going to keep playing this fucking noise until we drive you crazy,” while cuts like “Motorhead” and “Rich Get Richer” show the band exercising its creative license. Where most compendiums of this ilk would be quarantined as fans-only curiosities, Darby Crash warrants listening by anyone with a modicum of interest. Fortunately, it also marks the beginnings of a reissue campaign that should bring a long overdue re-appreciation of this seminal band.