Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Alternative Tentacles
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Still disenfranchised about American society and riled up about it, the former Dead Kennedys singer takes issue with Wall Street, Hollywood, consumer nature, fast food, and white people in general on Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine's third album, White People & the Damage Done. Backed by a musically fierce band that includes Ween/Butthole Surfers bassist Andrew Weiss, drummer Paul Della Pelle, and guitarists Ralph Spight and Kimo Ball, the 54-year-old frontman sounds as spirited as he did in his early days. In fact, for the fast, furious "Road Rage" and "Mid-East Peace Process," he and his band match the blistering energy of early-'80s American hardcore staples like Black Flag (good to see that Keith Morris' OFF! isn't the only group carrying the torch) and, yes, the Kennedys.
The third album by Jello Biafra and the Guatanamo School of Medicine, White People and the Damage Done, opens with Ralph Spight's swaggering hard rock riff and Biafra howling in his trademark high pitched voice, "We are the illuminazi! / You're the food chain we devour!" It's simple, broad and effective, and it sums up the LP in a mere four seconds. Where previous Jello and GSM songs struggled to stand apart from each other, and also struggled to stand out in Biafra's vast catalogue, now the band have rotated in such a way that not only are they making the best music of their run, but also, standing out as a notable and memorable point in the Biafra catalogue along the heights of Plastic Surgery Disasters, Prairie Home Invasion and Sieg Howdy!. For one thing, Biafra is as vitriolic as ever.
Renowned ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra finally got off the spoken word treadmill with 2009’s The Audacity Of Hype: a suitably scabrous and satirical return to vintage punk form attacking tried-and-tested targets such as American imperialism and political smear campaigns. His second with robust new charges The Guantanamo School Of Medicine, White People And The Damage Done, is billed primarily as an anti-austerity blitzkrieg. Yet there’s much more too: witness John Dillinger’s scalpel-sharp examination of criminal celebrity culture; Mid-East Peace Process’ maniacal suicide bomber scenario and the bile-soaked chug of Crapture, wherein Biafra lays into doom-mongering end-of-days merchants with gusto.
When Jello Biafra first entered the ring thirtysomething years ago as frontman of the Dead Kennedys, there were pretty much no musicians who expressed their worldview in a comparable manner. Now it is 2013, as Jello himself may well be rewriting one of his best known songs to acknowledge, and while the punk rock soapboxer supreme is still keeping his release schedule fairly regular well into his fifties, the current generation doesn’t appear to have generated a lot of Jello-alikes. At least, not musical ones.
Jello Biafra is a man who’s never really happy unless he’s plenty pissed off. His unquenchable ire is, at best, only temporarily sated when he’s sardonically stabbing away at politics run afoul, corporate greed, or any number of society’s moving targets. His iconic days fronting the Dead Kennedys might be long behind him, but Biafra’s found a suitably vicious surrogate act in the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the latest musical vessel for his hilarious and frighteningly pointed social skewering.