Dead Kennedys - Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead Kennedys

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987)

Alternative Tentacles

Above everything, Dead Kennedy’s were fun, in your face, and rule breaking. When the band emerged, their brand of punk was a hybrid of the music community and the retaliation of mainstream music and politics. Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death is one of the final official examples of what Dead Kennedy’s were truly capable of. Being the last album Jello Biafra approved of, the compilation was the final Dead Kennedy’s album to be released on Alternative Tentacles. The compilation showcased B-sides, alternative versions as well as live songs. The album also features the infamous “Pull My Strings” performance, which I’ll talk about later. Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death is a fun look into Dead Kennedy’s songs and a different take on some songs.

Dead Kennedys showcased some of their alternative recordings and live songs that make up this compilation. The best part about the band is their dancey fast songs. "Too Drunk To Fuck" offers a fast punk song but it also makes you want to groove. It's this kind of aura only the dead Kennedys could create. As the last official release through Alternative Tentacles, I'd say the band hit a high note and made a compilation I assume even Jello Biafra can be proud of. "The Man with the Dogs" is a high octane, fast-lipped song from a B-side of the infamous "California Uber Alles." "Insight" follows suit with high energy where the guitar and vocals lock together to create a great arrangement. The live songs consisted of political rants before the song starts. Most of them are typical Biafra humor. Specifically talking about Dan White before their cover of "I Fought The Law" with Jello's own lyrics peppered in.

Some songs speak for themselves and their alternate versions give insight but nothing super off putting. The extended intro is absent from “Holiday in Cambodia” which helps the song move forward a little quicker. The single version of “California Uber Alles” sounds like it was recorded differently, but ultimately I favor the chorus as it sounded crisper and in your face. “Buzzbomb from Pasadena” offered different intro vocals that fit the song pretty well.

Perhaps the most important song on Give Me Convienence or Give Me Death was "Pull My Strings" performed at the Bay Area Music Awards in 1980. The story is pretty straightforward. The band was set to play the award show with their obvious hit "California Uber Alles." Instead, the band started with the intro and cuts to a stop where Jello announces "We have to prove we’re adults now" going into a totally different song that not only knocked the New Wave scene, but also attacked bands like The Knack directly. Perhaps one of the greatest lyrics of the song are "is my cock big enough? Is my brain small enough? For you to make me a star?" the song gets even better when we hear East Bay Ray's whacky vocals following Jello's lead. The song is a testimony to that time of music where even bands like Dead Kennedys were being recognized just like New Waves bands, but instead of following suit, they retaliated in probably the best way possible. The band even dawned white shirts with a large S so that when they pulled their ties to the front, it depicted a dollar sign. If that’s not punk rock, I don’t know what is.

"Night of the Living Rednecks" is a jam improvisation performed on stage after East Bay Rays string broke. Biafra tells a story from when he was in Portland, Oregon and essentially rants about his experience. In hindsight, it may be a good connection to his guest appearance on Portlandia when he wakes up from a coma and realizes the world is filled with yuppies.

The final officially endorsed Dead Kennedys compilation was certainly a high note. The compilation eventually went gold in the US. The compilation certainly served as a great retrospect for the band’s singles and B-sides. More importantly, it showcased a side of the band many saw, but the compilation takes you deeper than that into rare live songs with stage banter and hijinks that made up the foundation of Dead Kennedys.