Album: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Alternative Tentacles, 1980) Chart pos: N/A
Despite not being a massive fan of hardcore punk this band has always been a favorite of mine. I was 18 I bought Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and nothing else got played on my CD player for weeks on end. Even today where I’m more inclined to listen to 10cc and Steely Dan records I still have a soft-spot for the Dead Kennedy’s. I think much of this is down to the pitch black and downright macabre humor of Jello Biafra’s lyrics, which attacks everyone from smug liberals, self serving conservatives to unscrupulous theme park owners with more ferocity than Frank Zappa could ever muster. In Let’s Lynch the Landlord, Jello’s spat out lyrics satirizes greedy landlords with unforgiving vitriol backed with the usual three chord thrash, then midway through the song Easy Bay Ray launches into a solo more akin to surf rock than punk. It was this musical eclecticism as much as the witty social satire which lifted the band out of the early 80’s hardcore punk rank and file. The Dead Kennedy’s went on to make three more albums and an EP never quite reaching the heights of their debut album. In 1986 they endured a messy breakup that ended up with a court case and Biafa losing royalties and the rights to much of his bands back catalogue as a result.
Here’s Jools Holland interviewing Jello Biafra.