Archive for January, 2014

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

So, anytime I ever review a lesser known classic I always mention the medium. I suppose in a very real way that is because the medium can dictate how we consume music. Exhibit A : Cassette tapes. I grew up with cassette tapes (even though we still bought a modicum of vinyl and CDs were just too expensive) and they were a bit of a oddity; the sound quality would deteriorate the more you listened to them and every so often the tape recorder would chew up the tape and you would have to extricate the reel from the machine and if it was a beloved tape you had to have the delicacy of a brain surgeon to save said tape! However, they had one major advantage over a CD or a record which was the ability to record music onto a blank tape and pass on copy after copy. It was true that during this process the sound quality suffered but nonetheless it was an important way of passing around music back when it was very difficult to get what we now know as ‘alternative’ music. The first time I heard the Subhumans was on a recorded tape, the first time I heard Nevermind was on a recorded tape ( in Art class in Secondary School by the by) anyway you get the idea. Where is the album review I hear my two dutiful readers plea (you know who you are) patience my friends we have arrived! The album is ‘Give me convenience or give me death’ by the one and only Dead Kennedys.Now for those not in the know this is a compilation but as I said ‘alternative’ music was hard to come by and at this stage there were a lot of compilations knocking about. I got a copy of a copy of this off a school friend it was about 51 minutes in length so it fitted on a 90 min tape and I think the remainder of the tape had Crass’ ‘Well Forked But Not Dead’ on it. For years I didn’t know the names of the songs on either album or indeed what the covers looked like and there was no internet to go and check up on this information but there you go.

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The Dead Kennedys in my mind were one of the greatest bands to come out of the punk scene and consisted of the excellently eccentric Jello Biafra, D.H Peligro on Drums, East-Bay Ray on Guitar and Klaus Flouride on Bass. The album opens up with ‘Police Truck’, all Surf Rock swagger with Ray’s echoey guitar riff, Klaus’ rumbling bass and Jello’s vibrato vocal style. Jello’s lyrics are often humorous even though the subject matter is about the cops and their abuse of authority. Coming hot on the heels is the classic ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’, another killer riff with Jello satirising jocks and their beer- swilling ways. What next? Bona-Fide classic punk rock in the shape of ‘California Uber-Alles’. Opening with a classic tribal drum beat followed by a down stroked bass line overlaid with the classic punk surf sound that is East-Bay Ray, it screams brilliance. Add in Jello taking on the Californian hippy love in liberal scene and it doesn’t get any better, again Biafra’s humour made the band stand out from their contemporaries. The album pummels along with the hardcore classics that are ‘The Man With The Dogs’, ‘Insight’ ‘Life Sentence’ (serious moshing tune) and ‘A Child and his Lawnmower’. What follows is one of the greatest triumphs of the Kennedys career : ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ the band are just on form especially D.H as his drum fills are just perfect, Jello calls out the university kids in another witty lyrical master class and the drums and guitar are all frenetic and foreboding. This is followed by a cover of ‘I Fought The Law’ but in this version the law doesn’t win.

‘Saturday Night Holocaust’ follows and then the hilarious ‘Pull My Strings’ which takes a few well aimed shots at the music industry and includes the classic line ‘Is my cock big enough, Is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star?’ ‘Short songs’ clocks in at 29 seconds. ‘Straight A’s’ ‘Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round’ (Reagan and Thatcher get down and dirty over the phone in a booty call over arms), ‘The Prey’, ‘Night of the living rednecks’ (self-explanatory) and ‘Buzzbomb from Pasadena’ wrap it all up in a neat Punk Rock package. For my money The Dead Kennedys were one of the greatest punk rock bands. Their combination of surf-rock riffs served up with satirical political lyrics made for a great band that knew how to mix it up with the best of them.

N.B: The spelling of Kennedys is how the band themselves spell their name.

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