Dead Kennedys

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

BY Michael BarclayPublished Sep 1, 2001

After much painful legal wrangling over the catalogue, here they are: every Dead Kennedys album except the first - which remains property of Alternative Tentacles - re-released to coincide with a new live album. Because the "other three" members of the Dead Kennedys have embarked on years of legal mudslinging to wrestle control of this material from Jello Biafra, the simplistic question for an apolitical, decontextualised young music fan is: was it worth it? Outside heartbreaking issues of who's paying who, the short answer is no. There are no extra tracks, no informative liner notes to provide historical perspective - two elements that are industry standard for any respectable re-issue. Sure, maybe the digital remastering means that everything sounds a bit brighter than old vinyl, but who ever listened to the DKs for high fidelity? Most insulting is the presentation of some of Winston Smith's artwork, such as the booklet that accompanied the original vinyl version of Give Me Convenience. New packaging should enhance the original, not reduce it; this packaging "fails to promote" itself. Musically, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Frankenchrist and Give Me Convenience are still essential, powerful and potent, and a reminder that the band had much more to offer than merely the cult of personality surrounding Jello; they were the most creative punk band of the early '80s. And it's small wonder that Jello's seemingly time-specific lyrics continue to reach new audiences; today's era of neo-Reaganism proves many of his clever conspiratorial rantings to be prophetic. The live album - four tracks from 1982 and nine from 1986 - is interesting, energetic and nowhere near the atrocity Jello claims it is, but it's certainly not essential for anyone but the most devout fan. Somebody needs to reissue this material properly; a Californian jury decided that Jello wasn't up for the job, but clearly neither is the rest of the band. Politics aside, this is for helpless newcomers and oxymoronic punk audiophiles only; everyone else, hang on to your vinyl.

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