Nick Sucks of SoCal punks Moonraker told us about his love for a Dead Kennedys comp:
While trying to answer the impossible question of what my favorite album is, I decided to go with one that influenced my point of view and changed the way I look at the world around me, Dead Kennedys’ 1987 compilation, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. When I discovered this band and this album, it changed the way I thought. I remember the first day of 7th grade at my new junior high school, literally the 5 minutes after the first bell rang for roll call. A kid named Phillip strolled in late with a sharpie’d DK symbol written on duck cloth safety pinned to the back of his school uniform sweatshirt. I had no idea what that symbol was or what it meant but something about it just seemed powerful and dangerous and I needed to know what it was. I immediately started trying to gather all the information I could from the very early primitive version of the internet to my local public library. I eventually learned that symbol stood for Dead Kennedys, a hardcore punk band formed in 1978 in San Francisco. They had long since broken up, several years before I was even born, but their music and ideas have continued living on. I was able to get a ride from a family member to the local “cool” record store, Ventura County’s Salzers Records. I slowly skimmed the CD rack and found Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. The cover art was not something I was used to at that point. I didn’t know the meaning of everything illustrated but I knew it was all placed on the cover with purpose to elicit emotion and reaction from the viewer. When I got home I put the cd in my stereo in my room, hit play, and everything changed.
“Police Truck” started playing with the echo of East Bay Ray’s delayed guitar and Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro come in with full force. Then it happens, Jello Biafra comes in with the weirdest vocal style I had ever heard. Sarcastically and joyfully playing the role of the narrator—your perfectly wholesome, trustworthy, everyday, corrupt, racist, misogynist, all too typical police officer. Jello perfectly played the cop character singing from a first-person perspective that is so playful, routine, and terrifyingly true. This introduced me to his style of lyric writing. Usually playing a character from first-person perspective that would point out the absurdity or often evil everyday happenings of life that we mostly try to ignore or not think about whenever possible. Being that Give Me Convenience is a compilation curated by Jello himself the track listing goes through different versions of hits available on other albums such as “Holiday in Cambodia” and “California Uber Alles” but also the b sides like “Life Sentence” and “Pull My Strings.” The latter of which is a live recorded song where the band pranked an entire music awards show during their performance with lyrics I believe can still be interpreted about the feeling of being in the artistic community today. Even the title of this album is perfectly summarizing the idea of consumerism ignoring the original idea of an artist’s chosen track order of an album just for the convenience of having all the “best” songs on one easy-to-buy greatest hits record. When you’re young and finding music and feeling ownership over the music you discovered because it’s not mainstream, Dead Kennedys are definitely a band you can follow down a path to discovering politically biting music. Some of their songs can look so tame and comical by today’s standards while others seem to have the same punch of reality they did when they came out.
While you should never base your personal beliefs and ideologies around one person, band, or organization, Dead Kennedys helped open my mind to see that there was more than just the indoctrination that mainstream society, school, television, and your family members thrust upon you. It challenged me to always question authority in every form. Always strive for more knowledge. Care about the people around you especially groups that are marginalized and discriminated against. It’s something that seems so simple yet we see the opposite happening every single day. Not everyone needs an album to teach them these seemingly obvious principles but I’m glad this album exists to potentially help people that do. Listen to Dead Kennedys’ Give Me Convenience or Give me Death, it might just change your life.
Moonraker’s album The Forest is out May 13. The “Crickets” single is out now.
– • –
NOTE: The advertising disclaimer below does not apply to this article, nor any originating from the Village Voice editorial department, which does not accept paid links.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.