Unless You Think

I’m not quite up to reviewing Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables yet, it is one of my favourite LPs (and LP titles) but can I possibly interest you in In God We Trust, Inc. their 1981 follow-up mini-LP?

I picked up a slightly dog-eared copy of this in Leeds market 21 years ago today – God that makes me feel old.  I didn’t know any of the tracks here, although I had heard ‘We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now’ at a hardcore/punk night at Leeds university without knowing what it was.  Anyway how could I resist an LP with a cover collage made up of barcodes and a dollar crucifix? it suited my simplistic punk views on religion at the time.  Or if I needed more persuasion, how could I resist an LP with song titles like ‘Religious Vomit’ and ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’? I couldn’t.


To state the bloody obvious, the first side of In God We Trust, Inc.  is fast, damn fast.  With the exception of Jello Biafra’s on-the-money parody of a televangelist that starts ‘Moral Majority’ this is all a whiplash-fast blast, far too fast to hear the lyrics effectively – which is a shame because, as always, they never fail to skewer their targets lyrically.  So ‘Religious Vomit’, ‘Moral Majority’, ‘Hyperactive Child’ (all of 0:37 long) and ‘Kepone factory’, flash past and you’re left with the lyrics printed on the back of the sleeve to work out what they were so angry about later.  Whether you swallow all their views is another matter, I did at one time, I’m a child of the left but I find you tend to see the shades of grey a little more as you get older, but the Kennedys rail against enough no-brainers such as corporate greed, hypocrisy, televangelists and the suppression of free will to carry most right-thinking people along. My favourite on this side is ‘Dog Bite’, weighing in at an almost Yes-like 1:13, and replete with studio chatter at the beginning, it makes its point simply, it’s interesting that the most effective track on this side is by far the least wordy one.

Dog bite

On my leg

Not right

Supposed to beg

The second side is better, far better.  Kicking off with ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, which is one of my favourite Dead Kennedys tracks ever – the music and the lyrics gel here far better and they produce a withering critique of the nascent hardcore scene, limited scenester thinkers and outright fascists.  I love the line ‘In the real fourth reich you’ll be the first to go / … Unless you think’.  Next up ‘We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now’, is a retooling of their own mighty ‘California Uber Alles’, with the target switched from Jerry Brown to Ronald Reagan.  This tune is made stellar by a wonderful lounge-jazz intro, Mr Biafra clearly missed his calling in life.  Hell, it’s not as good as the original but to my mind very little is.  The party ends with their rip-snorting version of ‘Rawhide’ , which is a real fun treat, although I don’t remember the lines ‘Don’t try and understand them / Just tie ’em up and brand them’ in the original version.

Anyone writing about Dead Kennedys, very much including myself, tends to be guilty of only mentioning Jello Biafra which is entirely unjust they were a really good band all round, East Bay Ray’s surf-inflected licks gave the Kennedys a melodic variation that many of their peers lacked although I really wish he’d turn the treble down a bit, Klaus Flouride (great name!) bass playing is spotless and their new drummer D.H Peligro is exceptionally good here, clearly his ability to play so fast had a real bearing on the composition on In God We Trust ,Inc. 

D.H Peligro

I enjoyed playing this one again, particularly the bits where I had to turn the sound down so my kids couldn’t hear the swearing – now that’s anarchy!

178 Down.

8 thoughts on “Unless You Think

  1. Pingback: Oh Canaduh! | 1537
  2. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t own any DK. As much as I’ve listened to them and have enjoyed them, I’ve never given them a dime.

    I totally agree with the band statement. It wasn’t Jello Biafra and his band. Every one contributed to make it DK.

  3. Nazi Punks Fuck Off was the track that got me into the DK’s, albeit some 20 years later. Awesome band. And I totally agree about the rest of the band, especially East Bay Ray. Very easy to overlook.

    1. I can’t decide between ‘Nazi punks…’ and ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ for my favourite US punk songs with the word ‘fuck’ in the title. It’s the sort of thing I lie awake at night worrying about.

      Cheers for stopping by Tom!

  4. I second the Fresh Fruit rave (somewhere above) but this album is pretty great too. Rawhide is one of my favorites as it so easily subverts something well known. East Bay Ray’s occasional jazz licks are amazing especially in contrast to the restored the sound. The first time I heard Nazi Punks Fuck Off 25 years ago (egads!) I wondered who these nazi punks were. I still do, kind of. All I could think of we’re the American skinheads who came later. The DKs must have been psychic. Still, it’s a great song.

    1. i always interpreted the nazi Punks thing to a) idiots who thought it was ‘punk’ to parade around in swastikas and defended it as ‘just being truly obnoxious’ and b) the almost fascistic set of rules there were about how to look and behave ‘punk’ at the time (there are a couple of tracks on ‘Bedtime for Democracy’ where Biafra rages against this).

      I feel I must commend you on your use of ‘egads!’, it’s up there with zounds as my favourite medieval curse.

Leave a Reply