Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables - Review
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critics' view

The debut from the Californian quartet arrived in September ‘80, bursting out with classics left, right and centre. Taking their cues from the Pistols and The Clash, the DK’s channelled that energy and aligned it with their own home-grown agenda. The photo on the front-cover, showing several police cars on fire, was taken during the “White Night Riots” of 21st May 1979, that resulted from the light sentence given to former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White for the homophobic murder of Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk. With songs such as “When Ya Get Drafted” (rallying against calls for the re-introduction of the draft with lines such as ‘stocked with kids from slums’ hitting hard) and “California Über Alles” (satirising the States then-governor Jerry Brown as a supremacist and a totalitarian), these were clearly leftist punk aliens; their homeland occupied by oppressors, materialists and AOR friendly radio stations.

Jello Biafra’s (Eric Boucher’s) vocals landed somewhere between John Lydon’s sneer and Feargal Sharkey’s trill, whilst East Bay Ray’s (Raymond Pepperell’s) guitar was something else, incorporating surf / thrash / new wave (sometimes all in the same song); surely “Holiday In Cambodia” stands as one of the greatest guitar works of all-time? Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall) played bass at 100 mph and still created melody as Ted (Bruce Slesinger) marched and rolled with a relentless energy and a precision that was on the outer-limits of human ability. Biafra’s non-stop verbal bashing for the American government (and, to a large degree, the American people) was laced with a vicious humour and a nasal sarcasm, and was a political wake-up call for many – this fightback against stupid Americans was not a gimmick. “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables” was completely exhilarating from start to finish. What a rush…

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