Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Poison 13 - Wine is Red, Poison is Blue

Poison 13 was a truly maniacal combination of punk and blues coming out of the Texas ashes of the punk-rock Big Boys with a true vengeance. I never got a chance to see the band live but by all accounts the shows were bouts of madness and noise with members flailing and falling and noise colliding and sweat pouring. Tim Kerr (slide guitar) went on to many other bands, bassist Chris Gates moved to guitar and LA and formed Junkyard and I'm not sure what became of vocalist Mike Carroll, guitarist Bill Anderson or drummer Jim Kanan but hopefully they are continuing their mayhem somewhere.

While other bands, most notably the Gun Club, had merged punk & blues, no one did it with quite the mania that Poison 13 managed. Truly trashy guitars, a solid rhythm section and a singer whose voice is difficult to describe - raspy and not quite in tune, but great for both punk and blues. Kerr's slide guitar really gave the band a more distinctive sound and added a lot to the bluesier numbers.

The debut opens with a traditional blues turnaround that is cut short and instead the guys plow into "One Step Closer" ("to my grave"), a mid-tempo stomper with a chant-along chorus and cool guitar interaction with Kerr's slide giving it a neat, off-kilter feel. From there they blast into a rampaging take on Willie Dixon's "7th Son" and then another dark original, "My Biggest Mistake" ("is when I left a shallow grave"), which is blazingly fast punk rock with Kerr keeping up on his slide. Their "Spoonful" is dirty and dirgey and their own "Out on the Street" shows just how damn catchy their songwriting was while talking about homeless punks.

Not afraid to slow things to a crawl when the song called for it, they got intense and dark in "Big City Lights" before galloping into "Die For Me" and then performing a swaggering version of "Codine" with its piercing guitar solos sounding ragged and jagged as withdrawal symptoms. We get more blistering punk rock with "Grip on My Heart" and "Justice" and then a couple surprises - trashed out covers of the Animals' "When I Was Young" and Richard Hell's "Blank Generation"! The album closed with a raw, riff-rocker, "Hellbound Train" with drummer Kanan barreling down the tracks with relentless speed but doesn't quite lose control! Great!

The follow up EP was even better for me, with improved sound and with the incredibly catchy riffer, "First You Dream, And Then You Die" that has one of the best guitar licks in the history of r'n'r! They take on the Troggs' ode to porn, "Strange Movies" and the original "Can't Cry" harkens back to "Grip on my Heart" but they pull out an acoustic guitar for "Parchman Farm", showing that they don't have to just be noisy punks, like they are when they ravage "She's the One Who's Got It" (damn, who did that originally?) and the Pleasure Seekers' "What a Way to Die". The EP finished with "I'm Dangerous Tonight" but the CD adds a few more covers - a revved up "Love Me", "Strychnine" (appropriate for this band) and Joy Division's (!) "Warsaw".

This is a phenomenal package - 23 slabs of bluesy punk rock and a cool fold-out mini-booklet with pix and liner notes. Yes, you should own this!