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Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine The Audacity of Hype Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Biafra has assembled another invigorating public service broadcast.

Noel Gardner 2009

If you’re reading this, you should also be able to see the album artwork, which you will hopefully recognise as a nod to the most widely circulated poster from last year’s Democratic election campaign. Should you be au fait with punk-rock soothsayer Jello Biafra, and his three decades of caustic, conspiratorial ranting, you might take this as comforting evidence that the 51-year-old – who introduced himself to the world with a lyrical roasting of a Democrat governor in his home state of California – has not been mollified by the Obama cult of media-driven personality. You’d be right. (Additionally noteworthy: the artist Shepard Fairey created both Obama’s poster and Biafra’s album sleeve.)

Since the dissolution of Biafra’s first band, the Dead Kennedys, in the late 1980s, he’s maintained a fierce rate of output, with a revolving door of collaborators – Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, black sheep of metal the Melvins and Canadian punks NoMeansNo to name a few. The Guantanamo School of Medicine finds him chewing the fat with a trio including Billy Gould of the recently-reformed Faith No More, and the nine tracks on The Audacity of Hype, while more expansive than your average DKs blast, still carry many of that seminal band’s hallmarks.

Clean as a Thistle and New Feudalism – musings on political smear campaigns and American imperialism, respectively – rattle by at blistering speeds; Electronic Plantation laments office drudgery in the hard rock-ish fashion of some of Biafra’s early 1990s efforts. Guitars shudder with the surf-rock reverb that made albums like Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables both eerie and captivating. Jello himself delivers verbose broadsides in his trademark grandiose whine – imagine the lead in a Gilbert & Sullivan production stricken with foaming rabies.

That The Audacity of Hype begins with an excoriation of Bush’s eight years on the throne (The Terror of Tiny Town) and ends with a rejection of the idea an election might bring ‘change’ (I Won’t Give Up) tells you pretty much all you need to know. Except to note that Biafra has assembled another invigorating public service broadcast; we should all be thankful he has no intention of zipping it.

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