Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine
Enhanced Methods of Questioning
Oh Jello, weve been here before. In 2004 to be exact, when you
recorded one albums worth of material with the Melvins and spread
it over two albums released a year apart. The second, Sieg Howdy!,
despite boasting some standout tracks was mostly rammed to the gills
with filler, in particular some egregiously pointless remixes. And now
here we are again.
These tracks, recorded at the same time as your (rather excellent) debut
now emerge blinking into the light of day, and I cant help but
feel that there was a good reason they werent on the album: they
cant hold a candle to the proto-punk twisted spy-theme masterpieces
of The Audacity of Hype. Once again these tracks are mostly
filler, almost every song being completely unmemorable except perhaps
for their astonishingly weak half-arsed choruses. In fact, The
Cells That Will Not Die is really the only song worth listening
to, its sheer anthemic awesomeness and trenchant lyrics railing against
irresponsible scientific research almost (but not quite) making up for
the flaccid half-heartedness of the rest of the E.P. These songs would
have made perfectly adequate B-sides, but they have no place on an E.P,
the shortness of the format drawing attention to how feeble some of
the songs are.
Of course, its not all bad. Invasion of the Mind Snatchers
boasts a great riff that is more than slightly reminiscent of Marilyn
Mansons Mobscene, but once again a flabby chorus leaves
the song floundering in a miasma of shit. The same goes for Miracle
Penis Highway, which begins with some excellent interplay from
the twin guitars of Ralph Spight and Kimo Ball, but swiftly settles
down into a mediocre grind which lasts for 7 agonising minutes. And
really Jello, what the hell are you singing about here? Mocking Bob
Doles newfound Viagra-powered potency just comes across as pointless
and smug. There are much more deserving targets for your invective.
While were on the subject, you really have allowed your smugness
way too much leeway here, especially on the opening Dot Com Monte
Carlo, which rails against the yuppie gentrification of San Francisco
with lines like Wanna chase those twits/ Down the street with
a chainsaw, and How bout some yuppie drive-bys for
a change. A far cry from your usual acerbic wit, the song comes
across as bland, self-righteous and incredibly whiny, like Chris Martin
at a sweatshop. Youve always walked the fine line between righteous
rage and self-satisfied indulgence and here on the 18 minute (!) closer,
you go too far. Droning on and on about how punk you are over an (admittedly
nicely acid-tinged) grind, the energy of the E.P. dissipates in a fog
of ennui. Alternately coming across as smug and sympathetic, it encapsulates
the dichotomy of your public persona. Ultimately, the world does not
need a self-penned panegyric about how awesome Jello Biafra is.
And once again, the topics of the songs are embarrassingly out-of-date.
Youre still going after Bush-era targets, ignoring the excesses
of the current administration in favour of railing against the figureheads
of the good old bad old days. Bashing Bob Dole in 2011 is beyond passé.
If nothing else, this at least confirms the widely held truism that
punk flourishes best under a Republican administration.
Ultimately, this E.P. is a disappointment, a collection of off-cuts
from your debut which, with the exception of The Cells That Will
Not Die, should have remained locked in a dusty studio cupboard
somewhere. You need some new topics. And better songs. And a less supercilious
When the Guantanamo School of Medicine are at their peak theres
no-one to touch them. Lets hope they get back to it soon.