Saturday, 6 April 2013

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - White People and the Damage Done

Jello Biafra is responsible for some of the greatest punk songs ever. He's also responsible for a seven and a half minute song that closes this album entitled Shock-U-Py!

SHOCK-U-PY! So that's a mixture of the Occupy movement and Shock. But the way it's written is also in the way of cheesily named companies like U-Haul or Spud-u-like, so then it's SHOCK/OCCUPY but also SHOCK YOU, PIE? What the fuck are you even doing here Jello!? At least it's not as bad as Barackstar O'Bummer from the EP they put out last year. Yes! That's an actual song! No! I have no fucking clue what it means! Was it ripped from a topvoted comment on a Foxnews website story? I can only hope. Or as Jello would put it: Icon Own Le Hype! SATIRE!

Dude fucking loves puns. Which is cool. I love puns! Spider Robinson is a fucking beautiful man, but there is a law of diminishing returns. There is a certain point where paronomasia goes past its initial sly smile jolt of recognition and then past the idea of using the concomitance of words as metaphor for the interconnected nature of ideas and humanity and then just becomes like an opaque blurry mess (the Finnegans Wake coefficient) Like those kinda editorial cartoons The Onion's Kelly satirises where everything is labelled as something else until the analogies collapse in a inane blancmange of pundit buzzwords.

First line of this album: WE ARE THE ILLUMINAZIS! (Followed up with a pissjoke) Yeah, I get the kinda shot it's taking but I'm fucking if I know exactly what it's attacking? Nazis/ The illuminati? People who think the illuminati is real? Jay-Z? Sometimes it seems like Jello has perfected writing punk lines that are like the anti-capitalist Crass/MDC/Bad Religion version of "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously". Sub-NOFX wordplay is a harsh fucking sequence of words to type but it does lean in that direction at times. I'm not even talking about groaners, these aren't Andy Zaltzman pun runs where they stretch and ineptitude is part of the comedy of failure, these are supposed be fiery burns on (or at least witty placards shoved in the face of) the man and the machine, and they are not that at all. This ends up like the scene in The Tin Men by Michael Frayn where a character creates a computer program called UHL (Unit Headline Language) that automatically generates headlines where people superficially recognise the intent, but cannot explain the exact meaning of when pressed, like STRIKE THREAT PLEA, HATE BAN BID PROBE, TEST ROW LEAK or LEAK ROW LOOMS.

These colours clearly run. I'm contacting my washing powder supplier.

There are some things I really like though:
WEIRD VOICES! I was just talking about the current dearth of punk bands using dumb fucking voices in their songs like Splodgenessabounds or The Nipple Erectors sometimes did but Jello always delivers on that front (sometimes he over delivers, as anyone's who's listened to his half-arsed George W. Bush impression on The Yuppie Pricks Geto Boys parody Damn It Feels Good to Be a Yuppie (god even typing that sentence makes me feel like I have a life ill-lived) will tell you). Jello's voice is kind of an odd warbly thing in the first place and when he twists it into goofy redneck snipes and throws it up and down, slides a kiss of terror in it and lets it pip and scream then I'm always having fun. Yeah cunt! Weird voices! Minajcore!

PUNK SONGS! Yeah! Fucking punk songs! As mentioned at the top of this review, Jello Biafra has cranked out some of the best goddamn punk songs ever sneered, so the fact that one of his primarily modes of expression for the past twenty fucking years has been nine minute rants loosely bolted to music rather than the whipquick brainmelt blasters that threw him onto the stage in the first place has been rather fucking galling for those of us who've always found ourself in thrall to worlds set right and lives done wrong in doubletime (Remember when you loved short songs, Jello, oh what have we become as the seasons pass and our bodies age and crumble, ramble ramble ramble). John Dillinger is real screamer and a classic punk metaphor as well, bank robbers and banks and all that capitalist jazz (NO JAZZ).

Road Rage is a snot-packed simple hardcore punk blast, with breaks for an unsettling carnival punk lick and a chug-section in the middle that builds back up into a mini-Chemical Warfare kinda freakout and then back into that punk run. Ugly throughout with nasal violence and some of the aforementioned weird voice shit where he just sort of barks and yips like an annoying fucking dog fighting a mop.

Mid-East Peace Process is another punk song that follows Road Rage's THRASHFUCK-M I N A T O R Y S L O W B I T- OHSHITHEREITCOMES-THRASHFUCK structure, dropping into a first-person narrative of paranoia and terror with real bite.

Hollywood Goof Disease is pretty cool too, and it's got a real sense of theatre to it with the title line echoed by female vocals like how Bob Dylan did it once his voice was shot to shit on Street Legal, a section of drone-voiced repetition of the word 'CONSUME. CONSUME. CONSUME.' like a cheap garish sci-fi parable. This is one song though that suffers from the fact that the Jelloed One is a fifty year old man. I mean, I got a few problems with what he's attacking here, probably a bunch of the same problems that a lot people have with that whole celebrity carousel, but when you've got a middle-aged dude sarcastically going "What the hell is a Kardashian?" you're not an agitpunk provocateur, you're a fuddy-duddy cruiseship hack, throwing out one-sane-man platitudes to similarly self-satisfied sticks of grey. It's some olds gonna old crap. The sort of sitcom dad motherfucker that would describe themselves as a straighttalker when the word they're looking for is 'cunt'. Don't do that shit. MTV Get Off The Air is a great song cos its someone fucked off and thrown out by people they could, if they were built a different way, possibly consider their peers, if it had been a rambling missive thrown down on high by an old it would not have been good, if it had been sung by, say, Eric Clapton it would've been shit. And not just because Eric Clapton is shit.

But punk songs! PUNK SONGS! Like five in a row! Goddamn solid fucking punk songs. That's nice to have back properly. Do more of that Jello. Don't do something like rerecord Burgers of Wrath from your album with Mojo Nixon and manage to add an extra two minutes onto it somehow.

Oh wait you did that too. Twice on the extended edition. Oh well. It's still a solid cowpunk stomp and the skitter and click of the Slight Rural Extension version is probably more fun than the one on the actual album but it's throwaway and not in the cool way like a pogo-punx song's squirting nothingness.


The album has more than a touch of that cowpunk crack to it, which seems to be used implicitly to link, or just uncover the existing connection of, the country-cowboy-go-get-em idealism to the bastardly genocide that it sits with in the old west and onwards all around the world which is very well done. WHITE PEOPLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE! Now that's a fucking song title, Jello. None of this Crapture crap. Seen at least one dicksplit arseclunk get angry about 'reverse racism' over it. That's how you do it.

Comparing this shit to Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is fucking pointless: so let's do that. Look, that's got a good shout at the greatest punk album ever made and DK were possibly the great punk band ever and anything anyone involved in it has done since or will ever do in the future is not going to match it. On it's own terms this is a good album, which uses some of the most effective tricks in Jello's political arsenal, and also succumbs to some of his most obnoxious (and not obnoxious in a cool way like a pogo-punx song's nothing squirt) excesses. Sometimes it gets too blues rock, a little too plodding and he there's no individual part of the song Shock-U-Py which stands out as shit, there is just no world in which it needs to be seven and a half minutes long. Songs like that are political verbosity as Dream Theater riffs, boring and long and they just need to be pruned with extreme prejudice (though clearly Dream Theater are beyond redemption, they need to be cut off at the stump) and the failure to do curb that self-indulgence is exactly the attitude that has been festering and dragging Jello's artistic output tediumwards since Frankenchrist's Stars and Stripes of Corruption. Shoot it dead. Punk it up.

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