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.
On my leg
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.
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!