The Album Collection #15: 2013, Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine, White People and the Damage Done

by George_East on September 30, 2013

Jello biafraAfter a two month hiatus, the Allthatsleft Album Collection is back, giving you the best of contemporary and classic albums to revisit or add to your collection.  As Monday has by convention always been the day for new albums to be released (in the same way that Friday has always been the day for new films to be released), the feature will now run every Monday, providing we remember and we are not too busy (of course).

Watching the events of the first two days of the Conservative Party conference, with its lowest common denominator politics of fuck the poor, shit on the weakest and do everything to protect privilege, with just a little soupcon of a housing bubble to bring out the flavour, requires angry and passionate music to express the revulsion I feel for Cameron, Osborne and the rest (as well as their little helpers Clegg and Alexander)

So what better timing for the release of the new album by the Dead Kennedys’ ex-lead singer’s current outfit, the wonderfully named Guantanamo School of Medicine, with an album with so much energy and spitting with so much fury, that it could almost be the Kennedys’ great lost album.   This is hardcore punk at its best – not bad for a 55 year old.

Although much of his spoken word stuff which has dominated the last couple of decades of his releases, it is great to have Jello Biafra back doing what he does best – singing with biting rage in those inimitable strangulated vocals, all over some fantastically catchy tunes.

The album comes packaged compete with a black and white photocopied agit-prop fold out lyric sheet that would have done Crass proud.   The subject matter of the songs: the hypocrisy of Washington politicians, the avariciousness of Wall Street, all with a slightly mad anti-state paranoia, is essentially the same as the great Dead Kennedys’ records, but the details have been updated.

He doesn’t hold back on his targets – both sides of the aisle are the subject of his bile in the kick arse opening track, The Brown Lipstick Parade dealing as it does with the ‘one party state, two party masquerade’:

Republicans stand for –

Greed corruption bigotry and war

While Democrats

Pretend to feel guilty about

Greed corruption bigotry and war’

The bankers get it with both barrels, on the no messing about, Werewolves of Wall Street,  taking on the scam of the banking bail out.

What a scam

Housing collapse

We always knew

They weren’t worth that much

 So give us trillions

Or you’ll all go down

For money

That never

Existed at all

All over the world

Rich countries going broke

The money ain’t gone

We stole it all’

But its not just angry lyrics or a rantathon.  Like the seminal first Dead Kennedys’ album, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, most of the songs on the album have great singalong hooks – if nothing on the album quite matches the genius of California Uber Alles or Holiday In Cambodia, that is only because very few songs on any album by any artist reach those peaks of Jello Biafra’s career.

However with songs like John Dillinger  (who it feels, in his Robin Hood like way, is the real hero of the album) and the title track White People and the Damage Done with its particular take on 9/11 (‘There’d be no 9/11 if we never gave money and guns to jihad nuts we can’t control or understand) there are songs that would not have felt out of place on the same album as those great Dead Kennedys’ songs.

As you’d expect with Biafra, particularly in his later phase, his subject matters range far and wide from Israel (‘Mid-East Peace Process’), the deadening effect of a celebrity obsessed media (‘Hollywood Good Disease’) and the need for political militancy in the great final track on the album:  Shock-U-Py, with its AC/DC power chords to start and a very particular take on the Great Depression and FDR:

Once upon a time

There was a great depression

Once upon a time

There was a president named Franklin

When he first got in

A labor leader or two said

Yo! Frankie baby, listen up

These are our demands

This is an absolutely fantastic return to Biafra at his best.  It is the perfect album for when you are feeling angry and with this government there is always so much to be angry about.  It is just a shame that we have to rely on a man only a few years off his bus pass for such a cathartic release.

Buy it and Get Angry.

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