Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disaster – In God We Trust, Inc. – Review

Dead Kennedys

Plastic Surgery Disaster/In God We Trust, Inc. (Manifesto)
by Scott Hefflon

“The reissues Jello doesn’t want you to hear!” The headlines’d scream if anyone really cared. The quibbling and lawsuits between Jello’s Alternative Tentacles and “the rest the band” are well-known to the point of humdrum, and this reissuing, to most people (especially those who think squabbling is significantly less important than getting the music heard), might just be the rejuvenation needed to get these classic records back into stores. And Mutiny on the Bay is the “first-ever authorized DK live album.” (So sayeth the sticker, tho Jello calls some of the performances “piss-poor,” but one wonders whose fault that is, hmmm?)

I have most of these (as well as the band’s debut, ’80’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, which is still on Alternative Tentacles in the States, and, honestly, I think it’s got more “hits” than any other) on vinyl but never bothered to get them on CD, so this is a real bonus for me. Now I have Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death, the greatest hits release from ’87 that I never got cuz, like, I had the rest anyway. For newcomers, an added value is the EP (my first, not that it much matters cuz I memorized them all long ago), In God We Trust, Inc., tacked onto the end of Plastic Surgery Disasters.

Perhaps I’m supposed to at least mention what Dead Kennedys sound like, but if you have the wherewithal to read this review, I figure you’ve at least heard them in passing and asked what the abrasive racket was, and when it was said that it was the Dead Kennedys (in a tone like, “Ever heard of air, dipshit?”), it kinda made sense. Oh, and if someone’s reading this to you cuz ya got stuck on the word “wherewithal,” ask the person to punch you in the face a few times for me, would you? Thanks. Yeah, Dead Kennedys were San Francisco punk rock back when punk rock was defined more by what it wasn’t than what it was. Specifically, it was pretty fast and crappy-sounding, political (and not like U2 or Fiona Apple, thanks), and, jutting’n’angular’n’pissed and generally awfully noisy and destructive and vital and, uh, quite unlike Journey and REO Speedwagon and Van Halen and the rest of the safe rock on the radio at the time. It was weird and goofy and wildly original (cuz it wasn’t exactly socially acceptable to skate and like punk rock), much because it was first generation and didn’t have anything to ape/copy/emulate, so it had to react against, understand? And when you think of ricocheting – try to picture it – this explains why fragments of this and that were exploding everywhere, and bouncing in all directions away from the “rock solid,” and that’s why punk was diverse and messy and impossible to control. While now folks have the formula down pat and can mass produce it, back then, it was just oddball, irritating, and jarring off-the-wall unrock like nothing anyone had heard.

An added bonus on these reissues is full lyric sheets, original crappy drawings, and authentic punk collages (think SLC Punk if you’re too young to’ve caught this or any of the old-school retro waves), the classic b&w stuff with smiling girls with hula-hoops amidst piles of corpses, or nuns and Nazis posing for group photos.