Dead Kennedys | Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – 1980

American punk and irony for fun?

I have a good history with this album and a special place in my heart. I imagine most of people won’t want to listen to it. Punk albums have limited appeal to wider audiences, but while this album is a main stay of punk, it is an album full of surprises – a punk album from Californian, full of satire and politics with a strong left wing agenda.

As Neil Young noted in song about Sid Vicious, it’s better to burn out than fade away. 1980, I was 21 years old and felt that I was fading away. I think I was living in Castle Hill, having moved back in with my mother and brother. Maybe working at Hobbytex. I was a gardener. My family was breaking up. There is always something very suburban about punk.

Punk, on the whole, is a fast and short movement. The Dead Kennedy’s are an anathema (not the English goth/metal band).

Sid Vicious’s, career starts with the Sex Pistols 1977,  Sex Pistols dissolve in 1978, Sid is dead February 1st 1979.

Compare that with the Dead Kennedys lead figure, Jello Biafra. Dead Kennedys formed in 1978, Biafra runs for mayor of San Fransisco in 1979 and finished 3rd in a field of 9. In 2000 he ran for the US Greens Presidential campaign, beaten into second place by Ralph Nader. When Obama is elected in 2007, Biafra sends him a letter of advice.

Biafra is wordy. He has become a spoken word artist. For an example of his writing, here is a link to his views on Australia in the 1980’s, written during the1983 Dead Kennedys Australian tour. He covers Australian culture and counter-culture, media, and Australia’s silent majority. He has surprising knowledge of the history of Australian rock.

Dead Kennedy’s disbanded in 1986 due to being unable to pay the mounting legal costs of an obscenity trial over the use of a H. R. Giger poster on the cover of their Frankenchrist album. All charges were dropped.

The album is fast and furious and noisy in punk’s long standing tradition (3 years), and at times catchy. Odd to be singing along with songs like ‘Kill the poor’ a satire about using the neutron bomb to reduce welfare payments and crime without reducing property values, and still manages to take a shot at Jane Fonda. In other hands that song could be crass and tasteless instead of, no really, it’s crass and tasteless.

Stand out songs apart from Kill the Poor are; ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ a song about rich kids trying to toughen up and experience a new culture by taking a holiday. The real surprise in the album is the final track, a cover of Elvis’s ‘Viva Los Vegas’. This is really fun, with some great changes to the lyrics, well worth a listen. The rest of the songs fade into one, and are harder to distinguish from each other, this one is faster, that one has more bass, etc., but nothing to hugely recommend them.

For me, this album is a badge of honour, an intelligent record of punk history. It was also would help me make my first connections into a new step-family in a few year time. Me owning this record would be a talking point with my new step-brother, Snowy, and would open up other conversations.

Track listing:
01. Kill the Poor
02. Forward to Death
03. When Ya Get Drafted
04. Let’s Lynch the Landlord
05. Drug Me
06. Your Emotions
07. Chemical Warfare
08. California Uber Alles
06. Your Emotions
07. Chemical Warfare
08. California Uber Alles
09. I Kill Children
10. Stealing People’s Mail
11. Funland at the Beach
12. Ill in the Head
13. Holiday in Cambodia
14. Viva Las Vegas
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One Response to Dead Kennedys | Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – 1980

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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