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April 25, 2013 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Jello Biafra: 'Obama owes Occupy big time' The former Dead Kennedy talks to us about the state of modern punk – and modern American politics
posted by fearfulsymmetry (41 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The key to how I feel about that is a song on our Shock-U-Py EP called Barackstar O'Bummer"

OH GOD PLEASE STOP
posted by josher71 at 10:01 AM on April 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


Thanks to Jello I now get "California Uber Alles" stuck in my head whenever the words "Governor Jerry Brown" get broadcast.
posted by hellojed at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


The key to how I feel about that is a song on our Shock-U-Py EP called Barackstar O'Bummer

I thought this was a joke but it's actually in TFA.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:06 AM on April 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Barackstar O'Bummer

Some people say he's a terrific athlete
posted by hellojed at 10:10 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


O'Bummer

Lol, cuz he is a bummer and scottish
posted by Ad hominem at 10:15 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Dead Kennedys were the first punk rock band I ever heard, and I will always adore them. Between Jello Biafra and Berkeley Breathed, I was one precociously political kid in the 80s.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go listen to "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now" and try not to thrash about in my office chair like a complete dork.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The key to how I feel about that is a song on our Shock-U-Py EP called Barackstar O'Bummer"
OH GOD PLEASE STOP


Yeah, Jello has always been equal parts "Mad as Hell..." and Mad Magazine, and I think he'd cop to that. It was heady stuff for a suburban teenager growing up in the Decade of Reagan, however. And I must say the music has aged pretty well, even if some of the lyrics seem a bit moldy in retrospect.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:22 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really didn't want to believe he has a song called "Barackstar O'Bummer", but he does. It really sucks watching someone you used to respect turn into a total parody of themselves.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:31 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I saw Tool a couple years ago Biafra opened for them. I had never heard anything by him and knew little to nothing about his music/ideology. I just thought Maynard was playing a joke on the audience by picking a loud angry old guy. Like when he picked a loud non-English speaking all girl Japanese heavy metal band to open for A Perfect Circle.
posted by M Edward at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2013


Did he age poorly? Or DID WE?

(seriously, I'm not sure)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


No matter what I do, my songs come out in a certain style and if that sounds like Dead Kennedys then there's probably a reason for it. Don't forget I wrote most of those songs, music and lyrics. Of course, later on the other members claimed they wrote them all, which is kind of like a secretary who types up someone's novel claiming they wrote the book. It's not fun when guys you thought would be your brothers your whole life turn out to be an entire coven of Mitt Romneys.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess East Bay Ray isn't in his new band.
posted by TedW at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I dunno, "Forward To Death" came on Spotify a while back and it still sounded great to me. His solo stuff has just never been very good.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2013


Thanks to Jello I now get "California Uber Alles" stuck in my head whenever the words "Governor Jerry Brown" get broadcast.

I have a similar experience whenever Cambodia is in the news. I also can't hear the word "Istanbul" without mentally adding "not Constantinople" to it.
posted by TedW at 10:39 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't forget I wrote most of those songs, music and lyrics. Of course, later on the other members claimed they wrote them all, which is kind of like a secretary who types up someone's novel claiming they wrote the book.

That's just such a load of shit. Why did nothing else he ever did sound like surf-rock, then? Even if he did write all the riffs, that's just not how a band works unless it's Nine Inch Nails or something which isn't really a band. One guy doesn't dictate every note to the rest.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not only that but BEFORE the lawsuit, he used to talk about how he joined Dead Kennedys a month after showing up in San Francisco and having no musical background whatsoever. How was he writing all the songs, then?
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


DecemberBoy: I'm not very musical, so I don't know if this is bullshit or not; Biafra compared himself to Charlie Chaplin in the sense that he would hum the tune with a musician to compose, without having any technical ability of his own. I believe that came out in the DK lawsuits.
posted by dr_dank at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He impressed me, you now, for somebody named Jello.
posted by It is better for you not to know. at 11:04 AM on April 25, 2013


His solo stuff has just never been very good.

First two Lard albums and his collaboration with DOA are both great.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


"all great"
posted by Bookhouse at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2013


Did he age poorly? Or DID WE?

Yes.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:10 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw the DKs back toward the end of their initial incarnation (1985?) and frankly, wasn't that impressed. They just didn't feel that together. I'm pretty sure DOA warmed them up and more or less blew them away.

Then, a year or so ago, I caught Jello and his current outfit at a gig where a bunch of the old songs got played, and I've got to say, it was way better than the DKs had been. Committed. Rowdy. Tight as it needed to be. A damned fun gig.

So yeah. From my angle anyway, the good ole days weren't quite as good as some seem to remember. And now, well Mr. Biafra (aka the mouth that roared) doesn't sound like he's going to be shutting up any time soon. Which is mostly a good thing, even if Barackstar O'Bummer is a dumb title.

also worth noting. I remember talking to Joe Keithly from DOA a decade or so back and him telling me that the only record label that DOA had ever dealt with that didn't outright rob them blind was Mr. Biafra's Alternative Tentacles. So yeah, a good guy, I figure, albeit a bit annoying.
posted by philip-random at 11:14 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


First two Lard albums and his collaboration with DOA are both great.

Agreed, the DOA one was good, I wouldn't really call Lard a Biafra solo effort though, that was more of a legitimate band.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:15 AM on April 25, 2013


Let's not forget Prairie Home Invasion with Mojo Nixon. Very much a classic.
posted by destro at 11:23 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd go beyond saying the DOA collaboration was good and say it's one of the best albums I've ever heard, period. And it's got a brilliant cover. Front and back.

Also, Full Metal Jackoff is the greatest 14 minute long punk song ever.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on April 25, 2013


Of course, later on the other members claimed they wrote them all, which is kind of like a secretary who types up someone's novel claiming they wrote the book. It's not fun when guys you thought would be your brothers your whole life turn out to be an entire coven of Mitt Romneys.

I saw him live around 12-14? years ago. Anyway it was after the Seattle WTO riots. He put a shoe or something on the stage where you could drop in a few dollars to help compensate him for the money "stolen" from him by his former bandmates.

He spent way too long talking about his music career, and ranting about Tipper Gore. He also did terrible impressions of George W Bush. Actually I'm not sure why I expected more, but I was still reading Adbusters back then and wanted some inspiration.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:06 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


No love for Nomeansno? As much as I love Lard (and I do) and, of course, the DK's themselves, The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy is still in reasonably heavy rotation in my house.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow -- if there's a four-word phrase that takes me back to the late 20th century more than "ranting about Tipper Gore", I've yet to find it. Feels like a political flashback from some really horrible acid or something.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, Full Metal Jackoff is the greatest 14 minute long punk song ever.

I came here to counter with "Marquee Moon", but (a) it's only 11 minutes in its album version and (b) I'd really argue that "Marquee Moon" is some kind of art-prog thing masquerading poorly under the banner of American punk.
posted by mykescipark at 12:53 PM on April 25, 2013


Wait. A punk act covered Marquee Moon?
posted by notyou at 1:19 PM on April 25, 2013


No, but Television was part of the NYC punk scene in the late 70's, back before hardcore
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:26 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh I see. Punk the the same way the Talking Heads are punk.
posted by notyou at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2013


Sure. They didn't have a clothing store to promote in NYC, but they did pretty well for themselves nonetheless.
posted by mr. digits at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2013


Also, Full Metal Jackoff is the greatest 14 minute long punk song ever.

Not true.
posted by harkin banks at 2:45 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, Full Metal Jackoff yt is the greatest 14 minute long punk song ever.

Ollie for president, he'll get things done!
posted by homunculus at 2:47 PM on April 25, 2013


It really sucks watching someone you used to respect turn into a total parody of themselves.

Yeah, watching Obama schmoozing it up at the George Bush Manure Locker today was pretty dispiriting.

Oh wait, did you mean Biafra?
posted by homunculus at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The key to how I feel about that is a song on our Shock-U-Py EP called Barackstar O'Bummer"

OH GOD PLEASE STOP


If you were looking for subtlety, that's on you.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:27 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, Sinfest did the Barackstar thing in 2008. I see a serious copyright/trademark kerfuffle coming for Jello... then again, did he ever settle with General Foods for his first name?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


DOA is and will always be my pole star for that era and that music, mostly because I was in Vancouver at the time, saw them play dozens of gigs and even got to hang out with them a few times. And the music, no matter how angry and urgent it was (especially in the early days), was always fun and by god it rocked.

I have love for NoMeansNo, too, because of their BC heritage and the fact that they were around so much in the early-to-mid 80s Vancouver scene. Their music wasn't as much my cup of tea, but I respected it (and still do) for the massive power of the Wright brothers' rhythm section, and the relative complexity of composition they brought to the table. (I always draw a dotted line between Rush and NoMeansNo in my mind, which borders on heresy, I know, but there it is.)

I always respected Jello and the DKs for their political intensity, but other than a few energizing-fury songs that went well with whiskey and youthful rage, it just wasn't stuff that I enjoyed listening to. And yeah, in my memory, I'd agree that DOA (which was the hardest-working touring band of that era and scene, without doubt) did indeed blow them away on stage, too.

Still, I'll give Jello's new stuff a listen. There are banked fires in me that could use a bit of musical stoking with fresh fuel.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:24 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Biafra remains a consistent voice of satiric sanity mirroring a US increasingly devoid of all but lumpenprols.

The media debate here is generally between the rightwing and the ultra rightwing... I came back to America months later ... and they just looked at me dumbfounded.

Take a look around. Barackstar fiddles while Earth burns.
OH GOD PLEASE DON'T STOP
posted by Twang at 12:05 AM on April 26, 2013


If you were looking for subtlety, that's on you.

It's not about subtlety, it's about sounding like a parody of yourself.
posted by josher71 at 4:49 AM on April 26, 2013


I really hope the thing where people mock politicians by using part of their name and mixing it with a kinda-sorta-soundalike insult does after Barack's presidency. It's just so lazy and cheap and lacking I'm substance.

At the same time, I'm sure Jello has a hard time turning JUST THE NAME BARACK OBAMA into a bad word for his audience. It was so much easier with Reagan, Bush II, Nixon. They wanted nothing to do with our weirdo lefty world and were obviously the enemy oppressors

Back in 2000, Jello Biafra, Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, and Dr. Cornel West convinced me that George W. Bush and Al Gore were one and the same, milquetoast middle-of-the-road millionaires with personal interest in OPEC. On paper, they were totally correct, but I'm pretty sure most people would agree that 2000 to 2008 would have been significantly different.

Having lived through that, it's just impossible for me to not see Barack Obama as the lesser of two evils against McCain/Palin and Romney/Ryan. No matter how many things he does that I consider evil, indiscriminate drone strikes, bank bailouts, etc., and no matter how many Hitler mustached I see photoshopped on, it's hard to see Barack Obama as a caricature of an evil politician.

I think Jello, who's always been given to hyperbole, isn't preaching to the choir so much right now as he's used to, and may not be as up to the task.
posted by elr at 4:50 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


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