If nothing else, author Alex Ogg should receive some sorta award for managing to circumnavigate assorted landmines and turn in a book that incorporates all Dead Kennedys members pertinent to the story. The vitriol that peppers the relationships between various members—especially that between Biafra and East Bay Ray—can occasionally be felt bubbling just under the surface and Ogg doesn’t shy away from presenting their often contradictory accounts of the band’s history up to their titular album. Starting pre-punk and working its way forward, the book is chock full of interesting tidbits about past lives (the revelation that Klaus Fluoride once played in a band with Billy Squier was particularly savory), song origins, and the band’s placement within the greater history of San Francisco’s punk underground.
While this writer found the occasional self-referential interjections that pepper the book a bit distracting, and the appendix filled with kudos for the band from “famous” people they’d apparently influenced wholly unnecessary and almost willfully obtuse to punk’s whole point, the bulk of the tale itself was engaging, well organized and, most important of all, clearly written by someone with a working knowledge of his subject and the world in which they moved. The brilliant decision to include choice visuals courtesy of photographer Ruby Ray and frequent DK collaborator/collagist Winston Smith makes this all the more crucial. Ogg is also savvy enough to know it’s best to leave his readers wanting more, abruptly stopping after Fresh Fruit’s release, deftly closing the first chapter of Dead Kennedys history while leaving a door open for subsequent volumes, should enough interest warrant such a thing. –Jimmy Alvarado (PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623)