Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables

Dead Kennedys

Alternative Tentacles Records, 1980

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Over 15 years since they first burst forth onto the L.A. punk scene, Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys are a band that should still be feared - and respected.

Like their British counterparts the Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys erupted when we least expected them, spewing venom and social unrest throughout the industry. Both bands suffered some form of censorship, only making them more popular among their cult of fans.

But that's where the similarities stop. While the Sex Pistols self-imploded after only one album, Biafra kept his band together for several years - in fact, it would be censorship and a lengthy court battle he would eventually win that would spell the end of the Dead Kennedys. Another key difference is that this band could play their instruments well, and Biafra's vocals were solid, his warble making middle America quite nervous.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I'm embarassed to admit their debut album, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, is a recent addition to the Pierce Memorial Archives. But after one listen, one thing is clear - this is the album that defines American punk, bar none.

From the opening notes of "Kill The Poor," you know this isn't going to be any ordinary musical trip. From the tone of Biafra's vocals, one begins to take him somewhat seriously. However, many of the vocals on this one are tough to decipher, and at least my copy of Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables isn't graced by the presence of a lyric sheet.

East Bay Ray's guitar is frantic, but he shows he knows more than the traditional three chords on this one. Add to this mix the drums of Ted and Klaus Flouride's bass work (Sid Vicious, eat your heart out), and you have a band that began to transcend punk into, dare I say it, heavy metal / thrash. "Forward To Death" has Biafra proclaiming, "I don't need this fucking world," especially, as the following track foretells, "When Ya Get Drafted."

Tracks like "California Uber Alles" and "Holiday In Cambodia" are well-known for very good reasons, while Biafra surprises everyone by closing the album with a decidedly non-punk track, "Viva Las Vegas." It's a surreal close to an incredible album.

Be warned, though - some of these songs are going to bore into your brain, and kids, there ain't a damn thing you can do. More than once I've caught myself wandering the halls of the Pierce Memorial Archives singing, "Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor..." - unbenownst to me that the cleaning lady was dusting in the "L-through-O" aisle. (Resumes are now being taken...)

Jelo Biafra and the Dead Kennedys are a band that may be cursed to having a limited audience because of the music they play and the messages some of their songs had. But for those of us who have become enlightened and given them a chance, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables may just be the best punk album on the market.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alternative Tentacles Records, and is used for informational purposes only.