The Dead Kennedys have become to punk fans what the band Pink Floyd was to classic rock fans in the mid-eighties, somewhat of an ethical dilemna. Much like Floyd’s Roger Waters’ well-publicized arguments with his ex-bandmates, The Dead Kennedys’ lead singer and label chief Jello Biafra was thrust into court by the other DK folk, who claimed that they were significantly underpaid and underappreciated by Biafra’s record label Alternative Tentacles. And like the remaining members of Pink Floyd, it seems as if the remaining Dead Kennedys have emerged as the victors, free to spread the joy of their past glories without the help of their more talented and charismatic frontperson.
That said, one of the first fruits of this “agreement” isn’t so bad at all, the new DVD release In God We Trust, Inc.: The Lost Tapes. According to DK lore, In God We Trust, Inc. was recorded twice, as the tape of the first version deterioriated just in time for mixing. After listening to the two back to back, it certainly seems as if the “lost” version is the superior one, though the digital mastering and the footage of the band performing the songs live in the studio certainly doesn’t hurt. The band is tight and exuberant. Bassist Klaus Flouride and singer Biafra each have a gleeful intensity, while guitarist East Bay Ray and drummer D.H. Peligro are shy and reser ved in between takes.
The supplementary material on the DVD, live versions of all the songs on In God We Trust, Inc. along with an adoring audio commentary from a Northern California college radio geek, isn’t quite as illuminating. But on the whole, the DVD is so much fun, you can almost forgive the remaining Dead Kennedys for slogging along pointlessly.
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