Dead Kennedys - Frankenchrist (Cover Artwork)

Dead Kennedys

Frankenchrist (1985)

Alternative Tentacles

The Dead Kennedy's took a hiatus after the 1982 release of Plastic Surgery Diasters. They returned to release their most controversial and underrated album, Frankenchrist.

This album is very different from the simple punk oriented ones before it. Unlike their previous albums, their musicianship really shows. Most of the songs are of the "Holiday In Cambodia"/"Riot" vein, they're slower, but not slow. The album relies heavily on East Bay Ray's surf licks. Klaus Fluoride and DH Peligro do a competent job backing Ray or Jello whenever they're the focal point. Of course Jello's spewing out his infamous lyrics, but these are his most logical and intelligent. Jello also sings in his normal voice, rather than the sharp, biting lisp on the previous releases.

The album opens with "Soup Is Good Food." A great beginning shows this album was going to be different from the start. It talks about how people are disposable in regards to jobs.
In "Hellnation," Jello sings about human suffering and people don't bother to help each other out. It's a speedy one, similar to those on Bedtime For Democracy only longer.
"This Could Be Anywhere" is about nice suburban towns deteriorating into crime invested ghettos.
Ray shining moment on the album is "A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch." The lyrics don't seem to be focused on one particular subject, deadly chemicals as far a I can tell, but the music is great. There's an out of place solo in the middle that just makes the song more interesting.
"Chicken Farm" address the hypocrisy of Americans' resentment toward immigrants.
The mood of the album lightens with "Jock-O-Rama." Jello rants about how jocks get away with everything and will inherit the USA.
"Goons Of Hazard" starts out with a groovy drum and bass line before the high-pitched guitar tears through. It's about macho vigilantes.
"MTV Get Off the Air" is hilarious and a classic DK tune even though its arrangement is somewhat bad.
The eerie industrial "At My Job" is another funny one. It's not very expected to hear nothing but the drums, sythensizers, and a monotonous voice. The music fits the lyrics incredibly well.
Finally, there's "Stars And Stripes Of Corruption." It has DK's best lyrics, because they not only identify the problems in the US, but it offers non-satirical solutions.

The problem with this album is the production. Something that plagues most of the DK's studio albums. A few songs that sound similar are lumped together, which lessens their effect. The flow of the album is ok, that's probably the biggest problem with their albums. Also, Jello's voice seems mixed a little too far in the backround. On songs like "Soup Is Good Food" this is fine, but it's a nuisance on "Stars And Stripes Of Corruption."

I mentioned this was the DK's most controversial album. The initial pressing of Frankenchrist came with a poster of HR Giger's Landscape #20. It's a painting of dicks fucking asses. It was deemed harmful to minors and the DK's were taken to court. The band fought it on the reasoning it violated the Bill of Rights. They were aquitted in a 7 to 5 vote in the jury. It was a costly trial for not only the band, but Alternative Tentacles as well. During the trial, the appropriately titled Bedtime For Democracy was released. The financial toll of the Frankenchrist trial is evident in that album.

All in all, only Plastic Surgery Diasters is a better DK album. This is a piece of history even though only the original pressings have the poster, and it makes fine listening if you can handle long midtempo songs. If you like Black Flag's In My Head, this is like a surfed up version.