HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

19 March 2012

Dead Kennedys - 'In God We Trust, Inc.' (Alternative Tentacles/Faulty Products)

I forgot I had this DK's EP and then got pretty excited to listen to it when it came up next in this never-ending alphabetical death march. In God We Trust, Inc. is a major step away from the surf-bounce that underpins Fresh Fruit; it makes it's presence known rather quickly with 'Religious Vomit'. East Bay Ray's often inventive guitar leads are mostly absent on this record; instead we get the furious thrash-punk you know they were capable of (and is heard most certainly on Fresh Fruit songs like 'I Kill Children', but here it's more aggro, sharper). There's little correlation to the goofy, performative punk we heard before, except at the end of side two (with 'Bigger Problem Now' and the cover of 'Rawhide'). Side one blazes past; Biafra is spitting out words, often unintelligibly, and getting through a lot of lyrics in little time. The targets are the usual - religion, the medical industry, poor environmental regulations - and the subtlety nearly non-existent. But can you argue with lyrics like 'All religions make me wanna throw up / all religions make me sick' / All religions suck'? (I, more or less, concur). The production is piss-poor; everything is an indistinct cacophony of solid-state amps, and this platter spins at 33rpm for some reason when a faster mastering job might have helped. On side two, Biafra begins by commenting on how we're hearing take four of an "overproduced" Martin Hannett recording of 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'. Of course, it's the best-sounding jam on the record, but it's not really produced by Hannett. 'We've Got a Bigger Problem Now' shines light onto why this is a tighter, angrier DKs; it's a redux of 'California Über Alles', this time chronicling the more terrifying reality of the Reagan presidency. And that's where it all makes sense; Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was a product of the Carter administration; there really was a bigger problem by 1981, and it didn't turn out well for anyone. Except the super rich, of course. This version is practically a novelty track, beginning with a (actually lovely sounding) lounge/swing take, full of 7th chords and false swagger. Jello's doing his thing here, maybe the genesis of his spoken word/extemporaneous style he'd build his later career around; it actually reminds me of some of the Sun City Girls recordings featuring Uncle Jim. When it kicks in, we finally hear the scary clown-vibrato of his voice which is largely absent on this EP (or else it's just produced so badly we can't hear it). I remember when among the frustration of George W Bush stealing the 2000 presidential election, one of my friends pointed out that "Well, at least this will usher in a new golden era of punk and hardcore." This may or may not have happened (I largely checked out of that world, unfortunately), but it's interesting to think how this particular subculture might have developed had Reagan never taken office. I'm sure DKs would have kept writing songs like 'Let's Lynch the Landlord', but what about artists like Black Flag? The Minutemen? Camper Van Beethoven? I sure wish Reagan had lost, but let's at least see this as a (very very tiny) silver lining.

No comments:

Post a Comment