Dead Kennedys – In God We Trust Inc.: The Lost Tapes – Review

Dead Kennedys

In God We Trust Inc.: The Lost Tapes (Decay Music/MVD)
by Ewan Wadharmi

When Dead Kennedys sent these 1981 sessions in for mastering, a defective tape rendered them unusable. Two months later, it was back to the drawing board to lay down what we know as In God We Trust Inc. The original tapes were cryogenically preserved in some engineer’s mother’s basement until technology could catch up. Now, thanks to advances in DNA research, we can place Jello Biafra and his cohorts at the scene of the crime.

No motive is given for the video footage, and the identity of the shooter is never revealed. Bass player Klaus Flouride’s goofy mugging implicates him as the brains behind the documentary. He seems very familiar with the videographer, while the rest of the members avoid eye contact. Flouride’s unwelcome advances toward the camera will leave you feeling very dirty. Bearing witness to the proceedings steals a lot of the magic from the experience. The band comes across as smart-ass college guys pulling the wool over the kids’ eyes. Jello is a dead ringer for Norm MacDonald, and never wears a suit (and rarely a shirt) during the filming. Seeing drummer Darren Peligro ply his trade is the best result of the package. When he’s not obscured by stage darkness, the beauty of his bombast is evident. You’ll also realize that East Bay Ray and Flouride are quite good musicians, despite Ray being as lifeless as two bags of dirt… with hammers in one.

The amateur live footage shows the transition from raw beginnings to raw vinyl pressing. Many of the songs are transmogrified in the process. It’s here that Biafra’s political rants, questionable logic, and rabble rousing becomes vicious art. The clips demonstrate Biafra’s ability to incite dissension on a per-locale basis. The confrontations are calculated for maximum effect. In Texas, he prefaces “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by baiting “If you really like the swastika so much, go join the Klan like your parents.” In San Francisco, it’s a showdown with police, followed by frenetic wrestling with stage-divers for control of the mic. But even in his fist, the mic can barely find his mouth. “California Uber Alles” is punctuated by punches to unruly concert-goers.

Sure, Biafra’s paranoia is rooted in fact, but it’s when the kids go all Island of Doctor Moreau that things get fun. Dead Kennedys may not have been the best American punk band, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more important one. Fortunately, this record can now be shared with countless other completists to be archived in their own mothers’ basements.