Various Artists - What Were We Fighting For? A Dead Kennedys Tribute.

Turning into quite an issue for things Dead Kennedys / Biafra related. Which is a good thing. If you listen to punk, then I’ll automatically assume you know and listen to the DKs. If not, well, your education will never be complete until you do so. They were, and today over a decade after their demise, they remain one of the most important bands in history. Me, I wasn’t introduced to their music until years after the split. It’s one of my regrets. All I can do is listen to the albums, and view the videos. But that was my fault for not opening my tastes earlier in my life. One reason I make a deal about doing that now I guess.

But, do they deserve a “tribute” album. I dislike the term tribute. The same as I dislike the term Fanzine, and call this a ‘zine. It sounds like you are putting a band or group of people on a pedestal, and no matter how important, how influential, I’ve grown to disagree with that action over the years. Or as a person you’re so influenced by a band as to not be able to think for yourself. Both of which are traits to be avoided. So, like with reunion tours, I’m a little dubious at this. Instead I’m looking at it this way. It’s the chance to hear a bunch of new bands to me, in a setting which is comfortable me, and in which I’ll give them a chance. Playing songs I know and love. You can concentrate on whether the band is any good or not. If they totally fuck up the DKs well, it’s going to be a long way back for them. This approach of course has disadvantages. I know these songs. Anything other than the original is going to take getting used to, so if they change the arrangement, speed it up, slow it down, then I have to adjust. But that’s ok. It worked on Alternative Tentacles Virus 100 album.

Anyway, enough. What do we have here. 17 tracks, and just look at the track listing.

Government Flu, Terminal Preppie, Your Emotions, Police Truck, Moon Over Marin, Religious Vomit, Forward To Death, Hyperactive Child, Life Sentence, When You Get Drafted, Jock-O-Rama, California Uber Alles, MTV Get Off The Air, Too Drunk To Fuck, Moral Majority and Nazi Punks Fuck Off.

M.T.V.--Get Off the Air
words: Biafra, music: Biafra & Ray
Fun Fun Fun in the fluffy chair
Flame up the herb Woof down the beer(click!)
Hi I'm your video DJ I always talk like I'm wigged out on Quaaludes
I wear a satin baseball jacket everywhere I go
My job is to help destroy
What's left of your imagination
By feeding you endless doses
Of sugar-coated mindless garbage
So don't create Be sedate Be a vegetable at home
And thwack on that dial
If we have our way even you will believe
This is the future of rock and roll
How far will you go How low will you stoop
To tranquilize our minds with your sugar-coated swill
You've turned rock and roll rebellion Into Pat Boone sedation
Making sure nothing's left to the imagination
M.T.V. Get off the M.T.V. Get off the M.T.V.
Get off the air Get off the air
See the latest rejects from the muppet show
Wag their tits and their dicks As they lip-synch on screen
There's something I don't like About a band who always smiles
Another tax write-off For some schmuck who doesn't care
M.T.V. Get off the air
And so it was Our beloved corporate gods
Claimed they created rock video
Allowing it to sink as low in one year
As commercial TV has in 25
"It's the new frontier," they say
It's wide open, anything can happen
But you've got a lot of nerve To call yourself a pioneer
When you're too god-damn conservative To take real chances.
Tin-eared Graph-paper brained accountants
Instead of music fans
Call all the shots at giant record companies now
The lowest common denominator rules
Forget honesty Forget creativity
The dumbest buy the mostest That's the name of the game
But sales are slumping
And no one will say why
Could it be they put out one too many lousy records?!?
M.T.V.--Get off the air! NOW!

Having said that knowing the originals can be a problem if bands mess with a song, it’s not really a problem here. Only Vitamin L do any major re-working, with their hip-hop infused version of California Uber Alles. However, the real gem is Politikill Incorrect’s take on Jock-O-Rama. Some changes to the lyrics, to reflect they are a Canadian band as opposed to American, and that Hockey is their game as opposed to American Football. And then, when they reach the the sad, lump in the throat part, the tragic moment the jock breaks his neck on the almighty football field, they do it to the tune of Sabbath’s Paranoid. It’s unexpected to say the least. First time you listen it’s “eh?!?”. It could be tribute to Sabbath. It could be piss take of metal. I don’t know and I don’t care, cos it’s wonderful. A true example of a band taking a song, making it theirs, and managing to pull it off. Can be a rare thing indeed.

Your emotions is slowed down, which kinda makes it more difficult to enjoy, and the lyrics are changed to reflect the beaten Biafra received (two broken legs) from some punks while he was at a gig, cos they reckon he’d “sold out.”

If you ever really wondered how on the ball the DKs were, how relevant they still are, then take a read of the lyrics to MTV Get Off The Air

The music ensures that this is a wondrous album. They’re one of those bands that you could (can) always identify. Not faceless. Put up against them, most bands these days don’t have any character or any personality, no matter how GOOD they may be. The bands here, to their credit, don’t destroy the music. I’m still uncomfortable with the word “tribute” on the cover. But that’s my problem. Now, go buy some DK albums, and absorb. When you’ve done that, we’ll see if you can still wear your wallet chain with pride.

And if you ever thought that Marilyn Manson was dangerous and scared the shit out of the authorities in the States, get Tales From The Trial one of Biafra’s spoken word albums, and listen to the ways that the moral majority used to try and ban the Dead Kennedys. Now there was a band that worried middle class America.