Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Flashback: Dead Kennedys

In 1980 the Dead Kennedys released their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, giving Californians their own version of what it meant to be punk. With what came to be known as hardcore, Jello Biafra and the Kennedys dropped combative, left-wing lyrical messages saturated with wit and sarcasm over a sped up rockabilly and surf-rock sound. The result was nothing short of revolutionary, and the establishment they decried took notice.

It was the biting, satirical sarcasm that allowed the band to preach its anti-authority, anti-capitalism, anti-conservatism message without actually being preachy. Their album titles alone elicit chuckles: Plastic Surgery Disasters, Bedtime for Democracy, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. Underlying the humor, always, was a statement. And almost 30 years later, now, we could still benefit from paying attention.

The seminal track from that seminal debut is "Holiday In Cambodia". Yuppie-baiting lyrics set to an ominous sonic backdrop make it quintessential Dead Kennedys:

So you been to school for a year or two
And you know you’ve seen it all
In daddy’s car, thinkin’ you’ll go far
Back east your type don’t crawl
Play ethnincky jazz to parade you snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin’ that you know how the niggers feel the cold
And the slum’s got so much soul
It’s time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear…

It’s a holiday in Cambodia
It’s tough, kid, but it’s life
It’s a holiday in Cambodia
Don’t forget to pack a wife

You’re a star-belly sneech, you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
While your boss gets richer off you
Well you’ll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers ‘til you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you go where they get things done
What you need, my son…

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you’ll kiss ass or crack

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot….

And it’s a holiday in Cambodia
Where you’ll do what you’re told
A holiday in Cambodia
Where the slums got so much soul
For fans of absurdity, check out this video below. It's The Foo Fighters performing the track with Serj Tankian on vocals at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. They actually do a really fantastic job with the song, but you'll notice it appears that all but approximately four members of the in-studio audience are completely oblivious to (a) who the Dead Kennedys are, (b) that the song is essentially making fun of them, or (c) who Pol Pot is. I really hope Biafra hasn't ever seen this...

Official Dead Kennedys website.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Something surreal - and disturbing - about twenty-something chicks shaking to the sarcastic (kick-ass) defilement of a grossly misguided communist leader.