Year 4, Day 33: Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
- Kill the Poor
- Forward to Death
- When Ya Get Drafted
- Let’s Lynch the Landlord
- Drug Me
- Your Emotions
- Chemical Warfare
- California Über Alles
- I Kill Children
- Stealing People’s Mail
- Funland at the Beach
- Ill in the Head
- Holiday in Cambodia
- Viva Las Vegas
About the Album
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut album from San Francisco based punk band, Dead Kennedys. The album was recorded from May through June of 1980 and released on September 2nd 1980 through Cherry Red Records in the United Kingdom and Alternative Tentacles in the United States.
Thoughts on the Album
The late 1970s and 1980s were an excellent time for punk music. It was essentially a rebellious period for American music. This time period in music also produced some quintessential albums that still hold credence today. The music became a scathing retort of airy and breathy pop. The music became political.
That said, today’s album is from San Francisco natives the Dead Kennedys. It’s is their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. The album, most experts is considered to be a staple of American punk music. At roughly 33 minutes in length, it is a hyper-speed blast of left-wing political hardcore punk that is both scathingly snarky and bitingly sarcastic. Experts seems to agree that it kick started the hardcore punk scene in California. The lyrics on this album are not shy and there is not subtlety at all, as Jello Biafra belts out fire about topics ranging from conservatism, violence, greed, overbearing authority, and much more.
Like most punk albums of the era (and the genre) the production is pretty much crap. It’s very thin production; so thin that is almost dilutes the power of the music. But making up for it is the speed and satirical vitriol packed into the album. It starts with the vivacious percussion hits of album opener Kill the Poor. The guitar riffs are driven to the bone, like a fastball to the ribcage.
Nearly every song off the album are classics (and memorable). A prime example of this is California Über Alles. The pseudo-surf rock infused guitar riffs combined with Biafra’s spat out lyrics drive the song and give listeners an eerie sense of distraught in their gut. The track is a satirical blast at then California governor Jerry Brown. Another example is Holiday in Cambodia. The intro of electric guitar dissonance is perfect, it’s something that the version on Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death can’t replicate.
The opener, Kill the Poor and the ending Viva Las Vegas (a cover of an Elvis Presley class) are perfect compliments. Kill the Poor lampoons conservative culture that just as soon forgets about the poor as soon as election campaigns are over. Viva Las Vegas lampoons the actions that make the poor even poorer.
A must-listen album from the 1980s. While it’s not the airy pop/rock of the decade, it’s one of the quintessential albums from the decade. It’s an endlessly memorable, quotable, and satirical album that defines the genre of hardcore punk. It’s a concrete masterpiece of American punk.