Jello Biafra, for the lot of us who wouldn't know the razor-tongued lead singer of the Dead Kennedys from a German picnic dessert, has spent his career hurling lit matches under the asses of America's right-wing Conservatives. Since the early 80s, Biafra's searing lyrics and unabashed commentary have served as political shrapnel, sparking fierce outcries and action of everyone from Capitol Hill to your local coffeehouse gathering of latte-sipping, heated suburban soccer moms.
Biafra's mouthpiece over the years has varied. His initial punk days with DK segued into various collaborations, including ventures with such unpunk names as rockabilly magnate, Mojo Nixon. Over the past few years, Biafra has boosted his political agenda into a more traditional spotlight by publicly aligning himself with the upstartish Green Party. He even toyed with the potential of running for high office, but bowed out to give Ralph Nader a better chance of putting a Green dent in the traditionally two-party race. However, his latest form of tomato throwing has come through the form of spoken-word tours.
On his new CD, The Big Ka-Boom, Part One [Alternative Tentacles], a disc recorded during soon after the unveiling of America's war against terrorism, Biafra rouses University of Wisconsin liberals with 30 very charged minutes of pointed castigation of George W. and his "cowboy cabinet." Through analysis, accusations, and various inflammatory bits of suggestive propaganda, he paints the war on terrorism as ineffective and calls it the wrong answer to the problem.
Biafra's main point circles around the notion that by answering violence with further violence, we'll just be aggravating the situation. He suggests that destroying the figureheads of terrorist organizations won't yield any progress, as we're just showing newly-orphaned children of terrorist parents that we couldn't find a better way to resolve the situation than their fathers and mothers did. In reference to America's standing penchant for dropping explosives on enemy countries such as Japan and Vietnam, he offers, "If bombing civilians stops terrorism, why hasn't it stopped yet?"
From there, he only throws more cans of hairspray on the fire. In standard Jello form, Biafra spouts conspiracy theories like Oliver Stone in a JFK-themed candy store. After calling John Ashcroft a White supremacist and leveling criminal charges onto the bulk of GWB's cabinet, he "hopes" that the recent anthrax panic wasn't planted by U.S. Intelligence in order to garner support for their desire to widen America's crosshairs to include Saddam Hussein and wipe out Iraq.
Firebreathing such as this, as is true with most of what erupts from Biafra, can be stitched into a larger theme. At times, he spews such outlandish and miles-off-the-freakin'-map suggestions that one can't help but think he's simply trying to get under conservative fingernails. But his closing call to action summarizes the point precisely: "Don't hate the media - become the media." Biafra, in true Green spirit, has labored over a lifetime to motivate listeners away from apathy and never to swallow the status quo. For a public consciousness that wants to feel like our "Mom and Dad" on Capitol Hill are acting in our best interests, Biafra takes a chainsaw to the idea that we can blindly hand over our money and our trust to elected officials.
Although he conveys his message with just as much color and toothiness as in his early punk years, Jello the public speaker lacks the same snarling charisma and boot-in-the-neck impact as Jello the singer. Fellow angryman Henry Rollins (of Black Flag notoriety) has also taken his words on the road. However, Rollins packs more than just sharp soapbox rhetoric; he works more to establish the atmosphere as would a stand-up comedian, and then delivers his sermon of political condemnation.
An evening with Biafra is more akin to having dinner with your disillusioned, black sheep uncle who got into a pissing match with Tipper Gore in the mid-80s. It's informative and certainly engaging, but after awhile it gets to the point where you'd rather hear your six-year-old cousin make fart noises with his armpit.
In any case, The Big Ka-Boom, Pt. 1 is certainly a worthwhile listen and a well-made point, no matter how it arrives there. Biafra serves as a staunch figurehead for those Americans who haven't lined up to hang flags from highway overpasses. The audience for this release will be limited in scope and it, along with other Green Party ideals, will be largely dismissed as "unpatriotic" by the masses. But the selected few who aren't choking their brains with hype will take away their own brand of camaraderie and patriotism, served Jello style.