Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Jello Biafra won't give up!



I took a seat on the Sheffield train. I thought it pleasant to travel again. Mindful of the journey's end, I read again the free newspaper some litterbug had left to flap about in the expensive eyesore Piccadilly Plaza, where the pathetic fountains are put to shame by the much more impressive display outside Sheffield railway station. These dead trees are given away to control machine cogs (humans as you call them) with the intention of keeping the drones pacified. Excess free newspapers are also an excuse to keep the modern day slave trade alive. After all British paper has been getting sent for recycling to China where too many trees have been killed by pollution already. Still, must keep the trouble making economy working until the fuel runs out! The article that amused me concerned conspiracies around the destruction of the World Trade Centre, written by some uninvestigative hack expecting his dopey readers to agree with a bunch of experts who know that there was no complicity between the Saudi 'terrorists' and the CIA or factions within the vote rigger Rebublican government. These experts present absolutely no evidence to debunk any of the conspiracies, not even jolly old David Icke's lizard invasion paranoia, which they'd given more space to than many other more plausible scenarios. The hack had such contempt for his readers' intelligence, that he appeared to think it was enough for a bunch of supposed experts to make a claim and then not prove it. The fact that they are 'experts' should be enough for news junkies to believe them, so that they can carry on mindlessly consuming cheap crap made by Chinese slaves and destroying the planet. Nevermind, they've printed a photo of a turtle called Lucky with sofa coasters for front flippers to cheer up commuters.


The other window had a nicer view than this tame drivel, so I only read it when the train sped through dark tunnels under the hills. What could I do? As I listened to "The Lord is a Monkey" by the Butthole Surfers I looked out the window to see a young boy drop his trousers and pee gleefully onto the railway line. Behind him stood a man I assumed was his father, with a face full of pride, "Look everyone, me son's learnt to pee and he's only three!" Don't tell the ministry of programming, they'll probably award him an 'A' level.


Sheffield was sunny and warm and I headed for the University area after a quick look at Daniel Von Sturmer's video art (very Tony Hart) at the Site Gallery (www.sitegallery.org). Up the hill I was reminded of my last visit with a Dinosaur Jr tape in my earphones. "Where You been?" Steel City! In an Oxfam bookshop I found two quid copies of the first Starless and Bible Black CD and 'The Bells' by Lou Reed. In Age Concern I found four old copies of Punk Planet zine, one of which has an interview with Jello Biafra. I guess that made up for the fact that he wasn't doing interviews on this tour, understandably keen to save his voice for the gigs. I can sleep well knowing that I've fed starving African OAPs for a day even though the militia will execute them for wearing trousers the very next day. I asked if there were any other good record shops and the guy in Age Concern told me about a very fine place. We were talking about post-punk music, and inevitably Wire came up. His friend who was also visiting the shop had played his first gig supporting Wire in Doncaster in 1978, in the band Vice Versa who later mutated into ABC. Apparently he makes enough royalties to live on.


The best shop in Sheffield has to be Rare and Racy books and records, packed with jazz, classical and experimental music. Any shop that plays Noxagt and Yellow Swans so loud you have to shout to be heard is doing something right! The Yellow Swans 'Mort Aux Vaches' CD was such a damn good guitar drone rumble that I bought it there and then. Since only 500 were made I'll probably never see it for sale again. I was also pleased to find two CDs I'd never seen before: 'Rien' by Faust (which I'd taped off a record to help kill music) and the first Big Joan EP 'Other People's Fights' which I recall the band saying they wish they hadn't made. It's much more polite than the way they rock now, but still pretty good. They were playing Ornette Coleman as I left, and the jazz continued with a pleasant Charlie Parker album at my next destination.


I ate a plate of courgette, red pepper, lentil and coconut bake with rice and salad and a bottle of organic Black Fox cider at the excellent Blue Moon Cafe next to the cathedral. The black fox is a fox as black as night so that it might live in a man's shadow and never be seen. Refueled vegan organic style, I was ready for a bit of punk rock. In the street I spied some likely Biafra fans and got talking on the way to the venue. Up the steps inside a duo strumming acoustic guitars played fast raw throated protest songs energetically. More impressive were the heavily political hardcore trio Moral Dilemma, with mohawked blast beat drummer, who got me in the mood for my first dose of Jello with bandnoise. The Guantanamo School of Medecine set up and burst into life. Then Jello jogged on like Arnie limbering up for a spot of arab termination, dressed in a blood splattered labcoat and bloody taliban torture (TM) surgical gloves. I assume it was fake blood, and Jello hadn't been out killing yuppies instead of soundchecking. He looked unhinged, like a mirror image joker nemesis of some right wing republican liberty destroyer. The gloves got peeled off one by one and flung to the throng. Maybe someone could be trying to earn a few pennies selling them to dumb punk rock kids on ebay? The School sounded more like Tumor Circus and Jello's two albums backed by the Melvins than other collaborations. There were some songs from the No WTO Combo, three old Dead Kennedys songs, unsurprisingly delivered with more attitude and fire than that resurrected headless retrovirus crew. Before Guantanamo kicked the shit out of the Kennedys by blasting out a superior assault on property scrooges with "Lets Lynch the Landlord" they had tuning problems so Jello introduced the Medecine School. Bassist Andrew Weiss played for the Rollins Band back when they were a force to be reckoned with. They were the first band I saw in Leeds at the now gentrified Duchess of York pub. I think you can buy clothes that fall apart in three months made by Chinese slaves in that place now, if that's the kind of progress you desire. His brother Jon was bashing drums and guitars were wielded by Kimo Ball and Ralph Spight, formerly of Victims Family. Unlike the Dead Nostalgia Kennedys, Jello is still railing against the same problems satirised in this punk rock classic in newer, arguably better, songs. The yuppie cancer blight upon his home city San francisco is given a lyrical lambasting, and the 'gentrification' of cities worldwide so that they can all look like bland American malls is something he's very angry about. Jello's hilarious clowning made the rest of the band fade into the background visually. His miming of IT slaves going blind typing out garbage on their machines hammered home "Electronic Plantation," a song debuted by the No WTO Combo. Having taken stock of all the signs threatening ejection for stage diving posted around the venue, he lept into the crowd as if to prove that the rules do not apply to those in a more powerful position. Here the singer of a band was exempt from the rules, but his songs deal with the law breakers at the top of the political pile whose mass murder and complicity in torture and environmental destruction go unpunished whilst jails run for profit are filled with people forced to resort to smalltime theft just to eat. This was a punk rock gig so there had to be at least one guy who'd drunk so much he couldn't stand up, and he fell over most during the updated "California Uber Alles" which cast Arnold Schwarznegger as the wannabe dictator of this dying planet. The encore opened with a storming new song about accelerating scientific hell, concerning cells that never die. The big surprise was "Holiday in Cambodia!" The lyric, "You'll work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day" never seemed so relevant, only soon you'll probably be lucky to get a couple of grains the way things are going. Maybe we should execute all politicans who commit mass murder by proxy (they call it war) and feed them to the hungry prisoners? Bad idea! Where's the prophet?

The damn fine album "The Audacity of Hype" by Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medecine is out now on


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