Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review #85: Dead Kennedys - Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death


Year: 1987
Genre: Punk Rock
Hardcore, Post-Punk
Label: Alternative Tentacles

51 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

If you hate to hear this, I'm sorry, but some politically-charged rock is just plain bad. I can understand if you want to use music for a platform of promoting your politics, but if your band's beliefs are sucking the creativity out of its music, then maybe you should consider being something else. I don't like feeling like I'm being preached to in church when I'm supposed to be listening to something enjoyable. Still, the Dead Kennedys are a different case. Their music is so artistically captivating that you can fully understand what they are trying to tell you in the emotions, music, tones, and lyrics used. You WANT to listen. Always interesting and far from un-entertaining, part of the secret to the genius of the Dead Kennedys/Jello Biafra is their ability to portray a situation from the antagonist's point of view. Listening to a Dead Kennedys song pits the Bad Guy against YOU, as he proudly and coldheartedly informs you of how he is going to tear you and your country down. You hear these words, almost induced into a state in which you believe that you are actually hearing the politician/dictator/government/religious leader/corporation speak right to you, and it makes you mad. You WANT to fight back now, and it doesn't take any more bullshit preachiness. Not just this, the Dead Kennedys were strong advocates against what might now be considered "posers" in the scene; the lugheaded assholes sticking around to smash some heads and listen to music that sounds exactly the same again and again. The band experimented with psychedelic rock, western music, swing, and electronic music, adding to their zany flair. The band's politics and music and built them a large fanbase and the band existed for nearly a decade until breaking up in 1986.

The band released many albums, but they did many other things as well, such as writing songs that never made it onto this album and releasing 7" singles with other songs on 'em. This album does its best to keep a hold of all of the odds and ends left over from the Dead Kennedys' career, about a year after they disbanded, and it's the last Dead Kennedys release approved of by Jello Biafra, the original and true frontman of the band.

1. Police Truck
Originally the B-Side to the "Holiday in Cambodia" single. It's an upbeat song about asshole pigs who like to ride around, get wasted, beat up drunks, and sexually harass women they arrest. When someone asks them if they're "doing something wicked", they reply "No siree, Jack, just giving out tickets!" -- HAH!

2. Too Drunk to Fuck
Originally the A-Side of a single. An energetic surf rockish songy. One of their most famous songs. Basically making fun of drunk people and the stupidity that often ensues in drunkeness. Yes, I'm guilty too! I think my problem is that I'm too sober to fuck, to be honest. My favorite line was at the end about having diarrhea. After the song ends, you can hear a person puking into a flushing toilet.

3. California Uber Alles
Ah yes, the most famous Dead Kennedys song second to you-know-what. It compares the far-leftist mayor of California, Jerry Brown, to a hippie Nazi, enforcing his "mellow and hip" lifestyle on all citizens of California! This version is a little different from the Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables version in that it's older than that version and it's a bit slower as well.

4. The Man With the Dogs
The B-Side to the "California Uber Alles" single. We've all seen this man at one point or another, probably more than once. He hangs out in the city with his only companions, two dogs. People are creeped out by him. He bares all. He does not pretend to be any more than he is. However, he observes the others who he despises as being no more than mere rodents, and dreams of the day when he can "crack open their masks."

5. In-Sight
The B-Side to the "Kill the Poor" single. Another song with awesome lyrics. Basically about a group of douchebag friends who sneer and laugh at a "weird kid" from their school who sets his papers on fire, sits in a corner, gets bored by their behaviors, never hangs out with the girls, and often gets beat up. As the friends graduate and begin "planning their careers", the kid who they think is so weird remarks that they're "getting old". And they are.

6. Life Sentence
The B-Side to "Bleed For Me". A very fast song about something I have seen happen so much around me. Once-rowdy high school kids grow old, worry about being mature enough and their careers while they lose their youthfulness. Something I don't wanna fucking do. Therefore, this song has a lot of meaning for me. It actually seems to be a continuation of the theme on

7. A Child And His Lawnmower
The lyrics are about some guy who shot his own lawnmower because it wouldn't work and was dragged into court because of it, only to get right out after paying the fine. The moral here is to not be a macho destructive idiot because "if you did, you'd have half a brain left". One of the shortest songs on the album.

8. Holiday in Cambodia
The most famous Dead Kennedys song. Now being used in car commercials, video games, and the like, it is quite well-known in mainstream music fandom possibly for those reasons, and also because it's just a catchy, fun song. This iz the version from the single in 1980. This version mocks the mainstream "liberal elite" kids who think they've "seen it all from daddy's car", but back east "their type don't crawl" -- telling the kids who think American life is tough to cheer up because even the hardest times in America are still "a holiday in Cambodia". The vocal harmonies in the chorus are great.

9. I Fought the Law (And I Won)
Another happy, poppy sort of song. However, the lyrics are about a pretty serious situation in America; the Law can't even obey its own damn laws! Being in the KKK, shooting people, stealing money -- it is revealed at the end that the narrator here IS the Law! What irony.

10. Saturday Night Holocaust
The B-Side to "Halloween". It starts extremely slow, noisy, and creepy, with curious musings of a small town on strange smells and auras of poisonous material pervading their town as they try to ignore it all and get back to work... the fries at A&W are tastin' a little strange, and beyond their sight there are PEOPLE locked into cattle cars! That's when the song gets faster and a lil' more serious, as he goes over a plethora of social problems in the good ol' U.S. of A... the song ends in a quiet, sensual wooing to the girl with "Barbie doll lips" and a "spandex ass" mentioned in an earlier verse in the song.

11. Pull My Strings
This song was recorded at a live concert. It's about your typical dumbass "rockstar" who plays music just to get rich and live a life of luxury, with their lack of creative talent just to make a quick buck. The song parodies "My Sharona" in one bridge section, and another section of the song is done in a reggae style. This song still applies to all of the fucking fools in the mainstream music industry today.

12. Short Songs
Another live recording. It's a short song about, well, short songs. It's a short song for the sake of being short (half a minute). I have, however, written shorter songs than this. Not to brag or anything. Hehe.

13. Straight A's
More live Dead Kennedys! The song's upbeat, but it's pretty dark, lyrically. It's about a 16-year-old nerd who devotes his whole life to getting good grades in school due to pressure from his family and his school, as people laugh at him when he fails at something; leading to him contemplating suicide. He eventually does off himself, but "nobody remembers him", except for when they for a brief moment think about the possibilities... and then go back to their horrendous social structure that killed their boy in the first place!

14. Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Around
A mock-phone call from the Secretary of War to Margaret Thatcher set to a spooky Dead Kennedys soundtrack... the plan involves sending the amount of "useless" young people off to war, putting them on drugs, giving them guns, and dispatching them into many different 3rd-world countries. The sad thing is that this is all being done to "boost economic growth"... sad, isn't it? Well, it's not a real phone call, but this doesn't seem too far off from the truth, y'know... 'specially since the economy's not doing so well, right now. I might also add that during the entire dialouge of the phonecall, Margaret Thatcher is moaning in orgasming in a somewhat creepy way.

15. The Prey
This one's about a mugger whose "prey" are people with a lot of money, looking at the size of their wallets and sneakin' up on them until he can strike. You can feel yourself following in the footsteps of the song's protagonist, as you imagine yourself following an imaginary victim. This song is done in a slow, mellow, bassy style... sorta like lounge music.

16. Night of the Living Rednecks
One more live song! This song was completely improvised, featuring Klaus Floride, the bassist playing a bebop-style bassline and an accompanying beat, in which Jello begins telling a story about a time he was in Oregon, late at night, and is harrassed by a group of jocks in a blue pickup truck which looked like a "life-sized Hot Wheels car" yelling "HEY FAGGOT!" at 'im, and pouring water on him, much to Jello's dismay. He later met the douchebags again, as they asked him where the nearest McDonald's was, and Jello didn't know, so they poured water on him again, to which this time Jello responded by throwing a rock at their truck. And, like all over-reactive douchebags, the jocks responded by threatening violence, screaming "WE'RE GONNA KILL YOU, FAGGOT", as Jello was extremely nervous, attempting to hide. Taking cues from a group of mocking onlookers, he decides to actually pretend to be insane, begging to be put away in a mental hospital... the jocks don't like this, and call the POLICE on him. Well, the police arrive, clear up the mess, and everyone goes home. The End. Jello tells East Bay Ray to fix his guitar so they can play another one of their "real songs"...

17. Buzzbomb from Pasadena
Something of a sequel to the song "Buzzbomb" from "Plastic Surgery Disasters" with a TWIST -- the song is sung by an old lady! It's pretty funny in that aspect, hearing an old lady sing macho-typical lyrics about her muscle-machine car which she seems to love more than people. The journey ends when a group of cops corner her at a 7-11, shooting her car up and eventually killing the elderly driver.

"Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death" was a result of many different recording sessions which spanned the band's career, from the earliest 7" singles to out-takes from their later records to demos and live recordings. It was released a year after the band broke up, so it can be considered their "last album" in a sense. While there are many other great songs that the Dead Kennedys wrote and albums they released besides what's all here, even this album really does sum up what the band was all about. The band actually reformed in 2001, but without a certain key member... JELLO! Well, Jello had opposed to the idea, and continued his activities of playing in other bands, performing spoken word pieces, and political activism. The band actually did in fact, SUE Jello Biafra himself over legal disputes over who owned the songs (even though Jello wrote nearly all of 'em). The new band did things that it would have spat upon under Jello's control, such as performing at a Coca-Cola sponsored show at one point, and allowing their music to be used for large corporations such as car companies. Because of all of this controversy, the band once again is not performing anymore since 2008. Jello Biafra is currently the frontman for a band called "The Guantanamo School of Medicine", a band which could be considered his own modern-day equivalent to the Dead Kennedys.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Life Sentence
2. Night of the Living Rednecks
3. Saturday Night Holocaust

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