Various - Let Them Eat Jellybeans! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Let Them Eat Jellybeans! (1981)

Alternative Tentacles

In this age of mass, instant communication, music genres know no boundaries. With the click of a mouse, you can hear Japanese reggae in Nebraska. With the smack of the enter button, you can download native Brazilian odes in Finland. With the mere use of your thumbs you can even download Pakistani hymns to your cell phone and convert them to a ringtone. But alas, this was not always the case. Why, way back in 1981 most of Europe didn't know that much about hardcore punk, and neither did most of America either. Therefore, Alternative Tentacles released Let Them Eat Jellybeans! in order to educate the masses in what hardcore was all about. More than a quarter century later, this lesson plan is still one of the most rocking classes you'll ever hear.

The record divides its two sides into a more conventional punk style and a more avant garde side. Side A begins Flipper, the child of Black Sabbath and the Stooges, and proceeds to speed up for eight more songs. Many hardcore legends are represented on this side including Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, DOA, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag etc. etc. etc. While all these songs are some of the fiercest hardcore ever made, a few cuts stand above the rest if only for their rareness. The Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks" is a version not found on either the 7" version or the In God We Trust, Inc. EP. While the difference between the three versions isn't earth shattering, the Jellybeans version seems a little rawer and Jello really belts out his hatred for bigots. The real treat is Black Flag's "Police Story." Recorded during the Dez Cadena era, this version of the song is unavailable anywhere else and just might crack your skull in two.

Side B is a little more daring in its musical selection. While not all the songs tear up the place like the more well-known hardcore classic cuts, they function as documentation that even when hardcore was beginning to reach its apex, there were no rules. Bands on this side play acoustic instruments. Twangy sounds and unusual rhythms abound. And yes, there are a heck of a lot more than three chords on this side. The Half Japanese tune shows that humor, unusual songs, and hardcore can be one big happy family, while the Geza X cut shows that brutal music can come in many forms.

Unfortunately, this record isn't available on CD. While there are various explanations given as to why Alternative Tentacles won't release it (Greg Ginn won't agree to licensing his song or the Feederz' lead singer ran off with Jello's wife), it all comes down to the fact that as a CD this probably won't ever see the light of day. Those that aren't Black Flag or DK extremists can find all the other tracks easily in other sources. But those of you wondering just how scratchy Dez's voice is on "Police Story" or just how high-pitched Jello can get may find yourself plodding through eBay looking for a vinyl copy…

Nevertheless, this album serves as an excellent document of just how open-ended punk was. It shows the foundations for modern punk and even betrays the influences of some pop musicians. Whether or not you're willing to make the investment in your musical education is up to you. It is a pretty pricey textbook. But then again, what would you pay to have Jello Biafra as your professor?