Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
A question I pose to you, which I have been asked on many an occasion. Which band, to you, defines the original embodiment of the term/genre punk? I’ll give you time, think about it. To me, The Clash have always sounded like a new wave band, The Ramones, while being ridiculously fun, were always too repetitive for my liking and The Sex Pistols were a dirty, yet glorified high octane rock and roll band. I could have ventured off into the realm of straight up hardcore, with notable candidates like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Negative Approach, etc. Or, hell, even alternative punk, like TheReplacements, or Husker Dü. As you can see, I have a lot of choices, each bringing something different to the table; I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg.
However, despite all of them being just as intriguing and utterly humbling, none of them, I repeat, none of them will ever be The Dead Kennedys.
Being eighteen and growing up in an environment where the general consensus regarding music that was loud, distorted and angry was generally frowned upon, I had limited access to that kind of music. Sure I had the ability to buy it at any musical outlet of my choice, but none of my friends listened to it either. Back in the day, if it wasn’t made posthumously from ‘Pac or Biggie, or another sinister concoction from the tag-team of the time, Eminem and Dr. Dre we didn’t want to hear it. Moving along, the story was the same for high school, except I was able to indulge in my urge for music that was fast and loud with my peers, despite the selection still straying in the area of was cool for the time. However as time passed on, that became a gateway into what I would go on to listen to today.
You might be wondering where Dead Kennedys fit into this story. I didn’t pick up this album until I reached college, but when I did, it all made sense. From the opening vocals of Kill The Poor led with Jello Biafra’s uniquely quivering, yet triumphant voice, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables began to unravel itself before my very ears. Despite being at least 25 years old at the time and already listening to music of unique genres, this album sounded completely new to me. It was angry and sarcastic, yet sounded like something you could dance to. The surf-punk influence was quite clear; it was as if someone placed the sensibilities of happy California surf music in a blender with an overly political wolverine and resulted with a rambunctious chaotic mess.
I grew up (and still reside) in a sheltered suburbia; life was for the most part easy. I don’t think I can say the same for Jello, as his lyrics borderline social commentary (Let’s Lynch The Landlord), to the lack of humanity shown by people around him (I Kill Children, Funland At The Beach). The social and political commentary on this album is absolutely phenomenal and presented in such a creative manor that you have no choice but to listen.
I guess it’s a shame that I can’t properly give this album the review it so very justly deserves. It’s just too good for modern literature. I will say this though; Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables did not change my life. I had already found bands, which have filled that spot. However, after listening to it, everything else made sense, completely. From there on, everything and anything that has the word “punk” labelled across its crystal case has traces of Dead Kennedys within their music. It also gave me the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the review. This is how the legend began.
One of the only times you’ll see me do this:
10/10. Pay your debt, because every band you listen would never come to exist had it not been for these punk rock pioneers.