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May 18, 2024

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Dead Kennedys
Bedtime For Democracy / Plastic Surgery Disasters & In God We Trust, Inc. / Mutiny On The Bay - Dead Kennedys Live! (Manifesto)

By: Alex Steininger

Lawsuits, fighting, and general name calling, the remaining Dead Kennedys (Klaus Flouride, East Bay Ray, and D.H. Peligro) have been feuding with former front man Jello Biafra. They claim Alternative Tentacles (Biafra's label) has been stiffing Decay Music (owned in whole by the four members of the Dead Kennedys, including Jello Biafra) for tens of thousands in back royalties. On top of that, they claim Biafra has been limiting Decay Music's earning potentials by not allowing Decay Music to license their songs to, among other things, commercials.

Biafra, who is adamantly against such commercialism of the band's music, claims it ruins the integrity the band has built up over two decades. The remaining members, however, feel Biafra was not doing what was in the best interest of Decay Music, rather choosing what was in the best interest of himself. After all the dust settled, at least in the courts, Decay Music was given sole ownership of all the Dead Kennedys publishing and back catalog. Decay Music severed their ties with Alternative Tentacles and took their records to Manifesto Records to release them.

The result is two Dead Kennedys re-issues (Bedtime For Democracy and Plastic Surgery Disasters with the In God We Trust, Inc. EP) as well as the first ever Dead Kennedys live album, Mutiny On The Bay.

First up is DK's second full-length, 1982's Plastic Surgery Disasters, a record that showcases the diversity of the band from raucous and noise to straight-ahead punk rock and an appetite for garage thrash. Coupled with Plastic Surgery Disasters is the much coveted 1981 EP In God We Trust, Inc., a highly sought after collector's 12".

Together the two turn this disc into a 22-track collection of some of the sweatiest, rawest DK material. From the sing-along anthem "Riot", a nearly six minute garage epic, through the balls-to-the wall speed of "Religious Vomit", and the classic hardcore of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", DK plays with venom. Other highlights include "Terminal Preppie", "Well Paid Scientist", "Bleed For", and Moral Majority".

Opening with the lightening fast "Take This Job and Shove It", Bedtime For Democracy begins. The classic, mid 80s punk anthem propels the Dead Kennedys' final studio album into a chaotic state of mind. With the average song a little over two minutes, the band (mostly) flies through the 21-tracks on this album.

Released in 1986, the intensity and fire of DK, if ever in doubt, is well documented here. Their most bash 'n' rock album of their careers, the band wails, playing with an indescribable vigor, one that hasn't been found in a band since.

Bedtime For Democracy is their greatest accomplishment. It stands as one of the top punk albums of all time, its controversial, unconventional style so in-your-face and no-holds-barred, even those not into punk rock couldn't help but take something away from this album.

Digitally re-mastered here, the songs have never sound as crisp, as strong, and as powerful. "Dear Abby", the tongue-in-cheek, political mock MTV commercial "A Commercial", "Anarchy For Sale", and "Chickenshit Conformist" still stand out as some of the most political/social-political-charged songs in rock 'n' roll.

And finally, the greatest product of the Decay Music vs. Jello Biafra suit is the release of Mutiny On The Bay, a 13-track CD of Dead Kennedys at their best, playing the songs live, as they were meant to be heard.

Recorded between 82-86 in the Bay Area, DK's home turf, songs such as "Holiday In Cambodia", "Police Truck", "MTV - Get Off The Air", and "Too Drunk To Fuck" remain, and always will remain, DK standards. Outside the studio, with nothing more than the band and the crowd to feed off each other, these songs thrive, a testament to their power.

First and foremost, DK always delivered high-octane, thrashy punk via the studio. Taken to the clubs, though, nothing could stop them. Overwhelming and intense, their shows were a gathering ground for punk rockers that knew what the music and the word 'punk' meant. Mutiny On The Bay does the band, the songs, and the fans justice.

Regardless of who was right in the court battles and fighting, as a music fan, I'm just glad the live album was able to get released, and that the other two could get digitally re-mastered and back on the shelves so punk rockers for years to come can enjoy them. I'll give them all an A.

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