Reissue of works by San Francisco punk luminaries
The name alone was designed to upset every liberal in San Francisco in 1978. At a time when Brian Warner was in babygros, their singer Eric Boucher coined a nom de rock, Jello Biafra, that summarised the ugly ironies of the American Way, like Marilyn Manson would years later. The violence that flared at their early shows, meanwhile, guaranteed the cops would dog every move the Dead Kennedys ever made in their expressly political, highly entertaining eight-year lifespan.
The Dead Kennedys hated [I]everybody[/I]: Reagan, jocks, MTV, the military, rednecks, New Agers, churchmen and other punks. But for all their sardonic brilliance, delivered in Biafra’s goofy vibrato, the Dead Kennedys’ collected works are a very mixed bag. This set of digitally remastered CD re-issues only misses out their landmark 1980 ‘Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables’ debut. Which is a pity, but their second album, 1982’s ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’ is still a riot. It’s joined by an earlier, thrashier EP, ‘In God We Trust Inc’, whose high point is the fabulous ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, but you can probably live without it. 6/10
It was ‘Frankenchrist’, their third release in 1985, that elevated the Dead Kennedys to proper subversives. The record is their most accessible and playful to date. Its insert, a poster of an HR Giger painting, featured several dicks fucking rectums, and landed the band in the dock for obscenity. They won, but the CD reissue of one of the most important records of punk’s canon doesn’t include it, so merely warrants an 8/10
‘Bedtime For Democracy’ followed in 1986, but by then internal friction had compromised the DKs’ [I]espirit de corps[/I]; a tragedy that would land them in court ten years later, squabbling over royalties. Songs like ‘Anarchy For Sale’ and ‘Chickenshit Conformist’ chart the commodification of punk values; so, ‘Bedtime…’ isn’t as much fun as the vitriol of old. 6/10
‘Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death’, meanwhile, compiles ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’, ‘Holiday In Cambodia’, [I]et al [/I]with B-sides and rarities tidily enough. 7/10
But the real novelty here is ‘Mutiny On The Bay’, a never-before-released live compilation recorded in the DKs’ heyday. Tight and sweaty, it’s a document of a time when punk was informed by righteous fury, rather than the promise of a seat on the board. 7/10