Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables | Dead Kennedys | 1980 | Cherry Red | #365
One of my earliest memories of discovering punk was when I became infatuated with Stiff Little Fingers’ Inflammable Material, something I found in my mum’s CD collection when I was too young to really understand what they were yelling about. I remember feeling so chuffed with myself that I had discovered this genre which none of my other friends had even heard of. I’d go to school with a portable CD player that conveniently fit snugly into my trouser pocket (no mp3 players back then) and run an earphone cable up my shirt sleeve and into my palm so I could covertly listen in class when I pressed a hand to my ear. That’s how I surreptitiously learned about The Troubles at school despite it not being on the syllabus.
It was Green Day’s Dookie that I eventually settled on (punk purists are cringing now) as through the later teenage years and early adult life it became increasingly relatable and now firmly holds a place in my top 5 albums. But the point is that as soon as I started playing this album I instantly recognised it, not because I had heard it before but because it’s a formula that was set out and followed – a decade later – by 90s bands that I would eventually identify as punk.
The album consists of 14 hard, fast, lively, and aggressive songs quickly dispatched in just 32 minutes, which I saw as an angry yet somehow humorous reaction to what must have been happening at the time. It opens with the satirical “Kill the Poor” where I could hear passion in the shaking of Jello Biafra’s vocals which is persistent throughout. “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” and “Your Emotions” are both tracks which I found comical and lyrically accessible still.
One of the album’s biggest appeals for me was how it blatantly and unapologetically delivers a particular message, each song a vehicle for Jello’s political agenda. It’s quite tragic really that I should find myself identifying and agreeing with those same sentiments 35 years after they were written. Jello says that the thing that made punk necessary was how bad the 70s got, so how is it still relevant today? But go to enough London-pub-basement gigs and you’ll see the style being emulated; the mood is the same, just updated for a 2016 audience.
I love a good rant and I enjoyed how Dead Kennedys brutally delivered theirs. Definitely sticking this one on my phone for future listening.