Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine
The Audacity of Hype
So. Finally, 23 years after the Dead Kennedys broke up and after innumerable
collaborations with the Melvins, D.O.A., Nomeansno and Al Jourgensen
of Ministry, Jello Biafras gone and got himself a new band. And
bloody brilliant they are too. On The Audacity of Hype the Guantanamo
School of Medicine provide a stunningly aggressive backing to Jellos
frenzied rants about the evils of the Bush administration, the prison-industrial
complex, Republican sex scandals and shopping. Yes, shopping.
Jellos in fantastic form on the album, delivering his razor-sharp
satire with a smirking knowingness and wit that pulverises all in its
path. The band keeps up with him every step of the way, the twin guitar
assault of Ralph Spight and Kimo Ball moving along the punk spectrum
from Stooges-like squalls of metallic noise to Dead Kennedys-esque spy
themes as Jon Weisss brutal drumming drives the band forward.
The album opens with The Terror of Tinytown,
an apocalyptic look at Bushs last days in office. A stunning opener,
it starts off with a melodic rock intro before the drums kick in and
the guitars go into overdrive. Fantastic lyrically and musically, its
a great way to start the album, although Bush-bashing over a year after
he left office seems redundant now, especially as the albums cover
seems to suggest that the Obama administration would be Jellos
The next song is Clean As a Thistle, a stream-of-consciousness
rant from the point of view of a sex-obsessed Family Values politician.
Its venomous lyrics are delivered with customary sneer by Biafra, who
uses his voice almost as a fifth instrument in the song, his high warbling
acting as a counterpoint to the distorted squalling of the guitars,
the rhythm section barely keeping the song from exploding into a scream
of righteous fury.
This is followed by New Feudalism, a new recording of a
song Biafra performed live at the anti-WTO protests in Seattle years
ago. The lyrics havent dated at all; in fact they may be more
relevant now than then. The twin guitars add a new urgency to the track
and a new metal-based guitar approach replaces the slightly surf-tinged
guitar of the earlier recording.
Another new song, Panic Land comes next, a satirical look
at people who are duped by the news into seeing danger everywhere they
turn backed by crunchy guitars and some truly brutal drumming courtesy
of Weiss. Another re-recording of a song from the Battle in Seattle
follows in the shape of Electronic Plantation, which offers
a beautiful bass opening and some wonderful wordplay from Jello, whos
on top lyrical form throughout the album.
Three Strikes slows the pace a little with a melodic drumbeat
and slow spaghetti western opening before the guitars tear in and Jello
begins his attack on the three-strikes rule with the immortal words
When they came for the Jews I didnt protest, I wasnt
a Jew. Thought-provoking lyrics and crunchy guitars make this
one of the best songs on the album.
From here the album continues in its metallic punk attack with Strength
Thru Shopping and Pets Eat Their Master, ending with
the pseudo-anthem I Wont Give Up. A sublime slice
of righteous anger and hope for the future live, the album version loses
some of its emotion but none of its relevance.
The only thing that spoils the perfection of the album is the hidden
track. Oh, the hidden track. Why, Jello, why? It seems to be the whole
album played at hyper speed, squeezing its twenty minute run time into
incomprehensible noise that lasts for two hideous minutes. Its
awful and pointless and we will not speak of this again.
Overall, The Audacity of Hype is a fantastic return to form for Jello.
Despite the outdated topics of a few of the songs, the album offers
a thought-provoking, intelligent and funny critique of American politics
set to some of the most powerful punk music around. You need this album
in your life.