With The Guantanamo School of Medicine, Jello Biafra has formed his first new band since Dead Kennedys. While he’s certainly no stranger to collaborations, with a host of team-ups ranging from Melvins to the illustrious No WTO Combo, there’s something truly special about Biafra when he fronts his own outfit.
The Guantanamo School of Medicine is a crisp, clever group to be sure. Featuring Ralph Spight on guitar, Billy Gould on bass, Jon Weiss on drums, and Kimo Ball on guitar, the band does well to capture the energy of the aforementioned Kennedys and adds a touch of insanity a la The Stooges for good measure. Theirs is a throwback vibe, complete with hazardous swinging mic stands and drooling Detroit-esque proto-punk.
Vocally, Jello Biafra can be a bit of an acquired taste. While the 20 or so years since the disbanding of Dead Kennedys has kept the guy busy with all sorts of spoken word offerings and political dabbling, he’s still every bit the stutter-stepping frontman he was back in the day. Biafra’s vocals come like proclamations: half side-splitting exaggerations and half faltering fuckups.
The Audacity of Hype, the band’s debut, is a chaotic, lively record that really kicks ass musically.
Lyrically, Biafra attempts to tie some of his raw, angry Bush-era sentiments in to the new Age of Obama. The title of the record is clearly a take-off of Obamamania, while many of the songs suggest that little has changed in the configuration of the U.S. government. Biafra’s belief in protest from the people rather than glitz from the top shelf is a motivating subject throughout The Audacity of Hype.
“The Terror of Tiny Town” kicks off the record with a scorching stabbing on All Things Bush. “Texas oil’s favorite clown, never far from his feed bag of pretzels frosted with cocaine,” Biafra spits over a driving lick. He salvages it from a lame Bush-era throwback by keeping things current with a modernized stanza: “So what now? He ain’t gone ‘til they’re all brought to justice for war crimes.”
Other cuts pound with similar energy and barely contain The Guantanamo School of Medicine’s frenzied presence.
“Panic Land” is a swift, stunning rocker fuelled by the Ball and Spight’s outstanding guitar. “You can’t fly if your name is Mohammed or Ali,” Biafra shouts with traditional punk swagger. And “I Won’t Give Up” finds that Biafra isn’t buying the political differences between parties. “Ain’t left or right, or donkeys or elephants. It’s the top against the bottom; that is real,” he says.
With The Audacity of Hype, Jello Biafra and the marvellous Guantanamo School of Medicine transfers Bush Administration fury to the Obama age without spilling a drop. Biafra is every bit as wary of the government and corporate America as ever and these songs prove it. The band is tight and skilled, too, which greatly helps Biafra’s undertaking to mesmerize and madden listeners around the world.