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20 April 2012

Dead Kennedys - 'Bedtime for Democracy' (Alternative Tentacles)

The DK's last record is one that I've barely listened to, though it comes as a nice surprise. Here, they find the perfect balance between the fast and furious hardcore sound of In God We Trust, Inc. and their more flowing guitar leads. There's 21 songs here and they come by fast, but this is the best production technique since Fresh Fruit (credited to Biafra, though the engineering to someone else) so it's significantly more pleasureable to listen to. By 1986, Dead Kennedys were deep in the Reagan mire and starting to be consumed by other things - Jello's spoken word career was just beginning, and the whole Tipper Gore/PMRC thing became all consuming. Let's talk about censorship! But first, let's get this last album out of the way, which tackles all of the usual topics and a few new ones. 'Shrink' gets into sci-fi territory, as Biafra discusses mankind's tendency towards miniaturisation. 'Gone With My Wind' is a thrashy suicide tune, and probably should have become more of a punk classic. Side two also debuts 'A Commercial', a hip-hop style skit that tries to skewer everything at once, and sorta flops. It's actually when the DK's avoid larger societal issues and address the problems within the punk scene that I think they shine here. 'Do The Slag', penned by East Bay Ray, is by far the most fun track. 'Chickenshit Conformist' and 'Anarchy for Sale' are bubbling with Jello's bile, and also highlights. Or maybe this signals the time when punk became consumed by it's own internal struggles, and actually we should be lamenting this insularity. Regardless, 'Chickenshit' (along with 'Cesspools in Eden') is one of the only moments of musical variety here, clocking in at over 5 minutes with actual intelligble lyrics at points. It's an epic, a better epic than 'Cesspools' hard-rock plodding, and (along with Frankenchrist's 'MTV Get Off the Air', which sadly I don't have) among the finest of late DK's songs. This LP should have come with the 'Fuck Facts' fake newspaper, but my copy was missing it (no doubt because I bought it at a Scottish car boot sale for 20p). This progression through most of Dead Kennedys discography has been fun, but ultimately I think back to their first album and 'Forward to Death', still their finest moment. Oh well.

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