DEAD KENNEDYS: Live at the Deaf Club: CD

Jul 09, 2007

Long before their nasty lawsuits and counter suits, the Dead Kennedys were once hailed as the closest thing the US ever had to the Sex Pistols, another band who at the end of the day was embroiled in one legal mess after another. Caustic political humor, an enigmatic frontman, and the ability to polarize audiences everywhere earned them a reputation as the flagship band of the West Coast. While they were never deemed to be a threat to the social fabric the way the Pistols were, the DKs decidedly kept themselves at arm’s length from some of the more meathead elements of punk rock. Listening to Live at the Deaf Club one is immediately impressed with the quality of the production, a rarity in live recordings of the time, let alone one taken from a 1979 punk show. The other thing that is striking is how musically competent the band was, standing in stark contrast to punk’s shortcomings, both real and perceived. At turns, Jello Biafra’s strained, otherworldly snarl is reminiscent of Lux Interior’s cartoonish caterwauling but more often than not is the sound of unadulterated and pointed rage. Interesting highlights include “Back in Rhodesia,” an early version of what would be re-written into “When You Get Drafted” and the previously unreleased “Gaslight.” Fans of the band’s b-sides will especially like hearing live versions of “Man with the Dogs,” “Police Truck,” and “Have I the Right.”

 –eric (Manifesto)