210. Dead Kennedys – “Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death”

I have a love-hate relationship with punk.

Intellectually I get the whole kicking-against-the-establishment thing and the DIY ethic.  I recognise that in the late 70s these bands were a shock to the ears of a public accustomed to disco and prog-rock. I even get the primal desire to jump around and bash into each other.

But, I typically struggle with the reality of the recordings. The sloppy vocal stylings, trashy guitar and haphazard rhythms just ain’t that shocking through a 21st century lens.   What I mean is that it just doesn’t seem that dangerous or rebellious, and instead can be a bit of a chore.

This album is a case in point.  The DKs were at the forefront of shocking the conservative US, what with their name, their expletives and (elsewhere) supposedly perverse album covers. They dished up an angry, sarcastic critique of early 80s Californian and American mundanity and tyranny.

That’s all and good, but much of this compilation just sounds just sound like poorly constructed Cramps ‘tunes’ and Stooges outtakes.

When the band do get it right, they get it very right, however. Their most famous tracks (i.e. the first three plus Holiday in Cambodia) are justifiably subcultural icons.

File under: Give me competence



3 responses to “210. Dead Kennedys – “Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death”

  1. Unrelenting Tedium

    Can I make a dickhead of myself and make a distinction between punk and hardcore.

    Punk was more UK focused (although the Ramones and The Modern lovers and whatever shit Richard Hell was in get lumped in) and 1970s. It seemed to me to involve more of the”shock” factor, which involved in no particular order: looking a bit scruffy, giving the V sign and picking your nose. Hardcore was almost entirely American and 1980s. Where as punk’s lyrics were banal, hardcore at its highest points had real political anger and intent in the lyrics. Indeed the skill dispalyed by Husker Du and Black Flag on their instruments far outshone any of the pedestrian punk brigade. That said, Dead Kennedys are not all that much for the music…it was more about Jello’s lyrics.

    All I am trying to say is that, imho, the American hardcore scene had a lot to offer musically and had much lyrical content that is still entirely relevant today…punk on the other had is, to me, now embarrassing for those involved for how tepid it was/is.

    And no australian rant about all this is complete without a nod to the prescient and brilliant saints who were early out the doors with some cracking songs and musicianship from 1974 Brisbane of all places.

    • Hey Ute,

      Nah, no dickheadness arising from that comment. I agree about the greater musicality and longevity of the (predominantly) US hardcore crowd. I must say, I’ve never really associated Husker Du with the hardcore sound, although historically that is where they lie. As we’ll see with my reviews, I’ve never been enamoured with British punk at all, and possess very little (not even The Clash obviously)…

      Lookout for another taxanomic conundrum when I review The Descendants next week… And I’ve just realised I own no Dead Milkman albums, only a superb single. Might have to mention it in an aside post in the next week or so…

  2. Unrelenting Tedium

    I see what you are saying about Husker Du as their last couple of albums for SST and the Warner Bros albums (Candy Apple Grey, and Warehouse Songs and Stories) are certainly quite poppy. However, I defy anyone to listen to the first two albums, the accurately titled “Land Speed Record” and “Everything Falls Apart”, and not reckon them hardcore.

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