Saturday, September 17, 2005

Dead Kennedys: Frankenchrist

Alternative Tentacles Records, 1985 (LP).

I think that phrase "jumping the shark" is way over-used. It's also not true. I mean. Happy Days actually jumped the shark (ugh, I just did it) when Fonzie got rid of his Eisenhower jacket and donned the leather in like the third episode. Yes, early on, Fonzie was animal friendly and dressed like the working class dude that he really was. Orrrrr... maybe it went bad when Richie Cunningham's older brother, the clod jock, just disappeared. Hey, speaking of Happy Days, did anyone ever notice Tom Bosley's digital watch? I've seen it even in close-ups in several eps. Fucking Tom Bosley. What a big fat turd. You just imagine him arguing with the director that he would never take off his digital watch! I can see him now with his purple-tinted shades, gold chains and chest hair showing shirt (and that fucking digital watch) splayed out on some pool lounger somewhere laughing about it and collecting royalities. Oh, he's dead?

I don't know what this has to do with this record. Well, maybe I do but I ain't telling. More like I don't know what to do with this record. I mean I do have the original "pre-censored" version but I still can't for the life of me figger out what the title (Frankenchrist) and the poster of a wall of penises has to do with the rather lackluster and mostly uninspired songs here. And yeah, the little Shriner guys in the little cars are funny but why make fun of the Shriners. They're our grandfathers or neighbors after all, they raise money for blind kids and they never hurt me. I guess it's just emblematic of this whole muddy concept and unrelated collection of mostly plodding and often pedantic songs.

But's not a total tossout: "A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch" sounds like a different band than the rest of the album - tighter, more unified somehow - it's psyche-garage-band sinister, I DIG, it's a horror tale of a rapacious US turning on the smaller and poorer would be a welcome addition to any Halloween mix-CD. And while I can't remember liking it at the time, I think East Bay Ray's Devo-grungey "At My Job" is worth reconsideration if only for your I Hate My Job Cuz I'm Stupid and Lazy Mix CD-R.

But the rest of this record is best buried & forgotten. Just now re-reading the chapter-long lyrics in the frantic flay of a song called "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" - supposedly Jello's magnus opus (hee) - did Jello really take a piss on the Capitol Building? Wow, security must have been lax back then and I don't remember ever seeing homeless people sleeping on the grounds of the Washington monument. And I cringe thinking I used to like "MTV-Get Off The Air" with its easy and who-cares-now? target and so faux-cheesy it's cheesy opening. I mean, after all, I kinda like Adam Curry more than I like Jello Biafra.

Band lineup:
Jello Biafra - Vocals
D.H. Peligro - Drums and Vocals
Klaus Flouride - Bass and Vocals
East Bay Ray - Guitar, Synth, 12-string Electric Bellzouki
Tim Jones - keyboard on "A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch"

"A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch"
"At My Job"

  • This page has a buncha H.R. Giger paintings and if you go down 3/4 of the way there's the Frankenchrist poster (actually called "Penis Landscape"). I always thought the controversy over the album was more about Jello and his radical lyrics and interviews than it was the poster. The "obscenity" was just a convenient albeit silly excuse to prosecute a band that was becoming too popular.
  • The faux Dead Kennedys web-page. They're ending a tour - soon to be playing the lawn chair nostalgia circuit no doubt... here's the sordid details of the precedent-setting lawsuit they launched against Jello.
  • Alternative Tentacles webpage says the Frankenchrist is OUT OF PRINT. But you don't want that - instead, last year Biafra got together with The Melvins and recorded a few songs that suggest Biafra can still be a good frontman if he wants to. It was so good, they went back and did another one called Sieg Howdy that was released last week to little fanfare. It includes an updated version of "California Uber Alles" and a cover of "Halo of Flies" - anyone heard it yet or know if there's any MP3s to sample? ATR doesn't have any up, alas but it looks interesting.
  • Oh, and Jello will be speechifying and hosting Operation Ceasefire right down the block from me in a coupla days. It's like anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-toe fungus with lots of big puppets and broken home teenagers with black hankies on their faces. I'm sure if I open my window I'll hear Jello's loud annoying mouth. It's great livin' in DC!
  • The Jumptheshark page for Happy Days

Final Jerry Springer Thoughts:
Well, folks if you are looking for a new and different way to express what happens when a band over-reaches and forgets about making good music and writing intersting songs, maybe we should stop using Jumping The Shark. After all, what does Fonzie really have to do with music? It was Potsie that sang after all and Ralph Malph played drums and Richie played guitar. From now on, we'll just say "hoofah - that band just frankenchristed!" Please play safe out there and always look both ways before crossing the street.

And I'm getting near the end of my first box o'vinyl. Whew. There's still some more to go but I apologize for the quality of it. Even though I pledged to go through it randomly, I did kinda reject some of the random picks and now that's showing up near the end. There are a few records I couldn't even bring myself to record one or two songs - they were so bad. I'll be unwrapping Box #2 shortly and having a cleaning party some upcoming weekend.


Anonymous said...

ha! your best post yet!

Anonymous said...

Crappy recording, too. It sounds like the band was inside a box and the microphones are outside the box. It can't be you cuz the Rollins stuff was a lot clearer.

I tend to look back at MTV in those days with nostalgia. I mean where else would I have heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood? Ironic that it was the D. Kennedys that got off the air instead of MTV, though.

Eric XXL said...

Agree or disagree, you gotta love the way Jim dissects a record. You know the writing is good when you he rips a record you know and enjoy and leaves you questioning if it really is as good as you remember. Personally, I enjoy this record. Very different than it's predecessor but the guitar sound strikes a chord, especially with songs like "A Growing Boy" and "This could be Anywhere".

The real DK stinker is the awful "Bedtime for Democracy". So I guess it really isn't a question of if the DK's became crap, it's when.

And yeah, Tom Bosley is a big, fat turd.

Anonymous said...

Poor Tom Bosley - I actually enjoyed his performance in a recent Grade B horror flick called The Fallen Ones that was in and out of the theaters earlier this year. He played a rabbi even though he's more well known for playing priests and 50's dads with digital watches.

Chris Oliver said...

Wow. A Growing Boy really is a good song. I can barely remember anything about this album aside from not liking it. The Penis Landscape thing was so ridiculous. There was nothing political about it--it obviously existed for no other reason than to attract an obscenity charge.

Anonymous said...

I was confused by this record when i was 16 and listening to The Circle Jerks and Metallica, but now twenty years later it has held up as one of my sweetest guilty pleasures. I would never try to convince someone of its merits in mixed company but in my car if it's just me or me and my kid....we turn it up to 10.

"Bedtime for Democracy" is the unlistenable record.