BIAFRA, JELLO & THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
THE AUDACITY OF HYPE (ALTERNATIVE TEN)
In the twenty or so years since his brainchild, The Dead Kennedys, officially disbanded, Jello Biafra has made a career of spoken word gigs interspersed with musical collaborations with some of the most compelling figures in underground music.
Recording projects and touring with the likes of Melvins, NoMeansNo, DOA, Mojo Nixon, and Lard (with Ministry's Al Jorgensen) among others have kept his "punk as political weapon" message sharp, but the lack of his own band made these collaborations usually short-lived and left Biafra with a ton of songs that never saw the light of day.
Inspired by The Stooges gig on Iggy Pop's 60th birthday in San Francisco, Biafra laid plans for his own 50th birthday party and finally decided it was time to start a band of his own.
After cramming practices for a month, the four-piece dubbed themselves Jello Biafra and the Axis of Merry Evildoers! and featured Biafra, Ralph Spight (Victims Family, Freak Accident, Hellworms), Jon Weiss (Sharkbait, Horsey), and Billy Gould (Faith No More) The band took the stage in a sold-out two-night stand at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall.
Flush from that exhilarating triumph, nine months of rehearsal and writing followed; they added ace guitarist Kimo Ball (Freak Accident, Carneyball Johnson, Mol Triffid, Griddle), and christened themselves Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.
The Audacity of Hype was produced by Biafra and engineered by hip hop producer and longtime co-conspirator Matt Kelley (Hieroglyphics, The Coup, Digital Underground, Victims Family, Tumor Circus) at Prairie Sun Recording in Cotati, CA, and San Francisco's Hyde Street Studios.
The band's twin guitar attack retains some of the space-punk overtones and spy-music-on-meth chaos of The Dead Kennedys while adding a healthy dose of Detroit-style proto-punk flavored with Weiss' industrial excursions into metal percussion.
Topically, the album explores how the forced Iraqnophobia and Homeland Insecurity continues to feed lawlessness at the top ("The Terror of Tiny Town") vs.
a runaway police state and class war toward the bottom ("Three Strikes" and "Electronic Plantation," originally done by The No WTO Combo, Biafra's one-off collaboration with Krist Novelselic and Kim Thayil).
"Clean as a Thistle" becomes more timely every day as "family values" blowhards from Sanford to Berlusconi are caught in sinful trysts, while album closer "I Won't Give Up" offers an Age of Obama anthem on how change comes from agitation from below, not from glamour and sound bites from the top.
Thirty years on, Biafra solidifies and expands his uncompromising vision and updates it for the new century, with a powerhouse band that promises to be a terrifying live machine.
Jon Weiss's brother Andrew (Rollins Band, Ween, Butthole Surfers) has filled the live bass position recently left vacant by Gould's return to Faith No More.