Vinyl Vlog 510

Vinyl Vlog 510

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Tea Party Revenge Porn LP by Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. Ignoring the fact that Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine really missed the opportunity to address the activities of the Trump administration and of Republicans in general (seriously – there was no new music from the band between 2014 and 2020 – how the hell did that happen?), it’s impossible to ignore the value of Tea Party Revenge Porn. The album illustrates that, while the band may have missed the opportunity, the time was clearly put to use further developing their sound; there is clear growth apparent in the music on Tea Party Revenge Porn, and the developments made in the band’s music support the changes which have happened in the world around the band too.

As soon as stylus touches down on the A-side of the album and a wall of feedback rushes out to meet listeners, they’ll be met with the first, most obvious difference between GitSOM’a third full-length album and everything that preceded it: there’s a complete absence of restraint. On previous albums, Biafra tightly contained his bandmates within the boundaries of his compositions but, here, the edges which contain “Satan’s Combover” seem to be a little frayed from note one. Ralph Spight’s jumps right out of the already caustic mix supplied by the completely refreshed rhythm section of drummer Jason Willer and bassist Larry Boothroyd, and the results are a thing of beauty; the guitars coil into and excellent quasi-surf assault and Biafra just unloads a brutal indictment of the climate in American society with the words, “As the mirage of democracy melts away/ As the shanty tents pile up around the malls … As the world’s downsized ’til we all explode/ So many sides enraged at the same things/ We herd your angry mobs into Panic land.”

The angle that the singer takes here feels unique for Biafra; it isn’t satire, it’s just pissed off. After the tumult of the last few years though, it’s really easy to get swept up in the storm that the band is building here.

The assault begun with “Satan’s Combover” continues unabated with the societal commentary embodied by “People With Too Much Time On Their Hands” which examines the disgusting rumor mill which took over the internet long ago, but then goes completely over the edge as “A Boring Day Is What I Need” screeches into a different gear so hard and so fast that listeners’ heads will be spinning. There, GitSOM hits upon a tempo they have never attempted before and leave listeners breathless as Jello lines up and unloads a manic diatribe about being overworked, underpaid and promoted beyond the level of one’s incompetence and comfort. Lines like, “They say if you want something done quick/ Give it to the person who’s got too much to do/ I’ve been that fool since I started school/ And that’s why I feel like strangling you” exemplify the heart of the matter and are driven like a speed-dehydrated maniac right into the pleasure center of every punk’s brain, but there’s more than just that at work too; Jello hasn’t played this hard in ages – he’s pushing boldly into listeners’ collective comfort zone and kicking hard to get them out of it. The result of that effort is magic and listeners may feel themselves deflating with the song as it ends.

…Except that isn’t the end of the side. Just for one more kick, GitSOM removes all pretense and hits listeners square in the face with “We Created Putin” to close out the side, and makes all of the blame and disgust that Jello has in him plain – but also curses the U.S. To take responsibility for their part in the country’s current state of affairs. There, Jello recognizes the United States’ role in the first and second World Wars, but also contends that it was American ignorance and arrogance in the aftermath of those conflicts which created the political landscape and birthed the inherent danger that Vladimir Putin represents in present day. Nothing about the song is easy or convenient and some of Jello’s squealing vocals as well as the vaudevillian refrains he presents become flat-out difficult to absorb; but after the song’s four-and-a-half-minute duration, listeners will recognize that, as far as both they and Biafra have come, they’ve also gone full-circle. “We Created Putin”is about as close to an old-fashioned Dead Kennedys song as Jello Biafra has come in a long time – and it works.

After the example that “We Created Putin” sets, listeners will be rushing to flip the record over – and what they find is that there are more shadows of the Dead Kennedys on the album’s B-side. Immediately after the flip, “The Last Big Gulp” combines consumerism and situationist sensibilities with political discourse and all backed with stringy pseudo pop-punk in much the same way that The Dead Kennedys’ cover “I Fought The Law” did, as well as “Saturday Night Holocaust,” “Triumph of the Swill” and “Anarchy For Sale” all did. The way it plays feels perfectly invigorating, and lays the groundwork for the chugging “Taliban U.S.A.” (which gives listeners a decent history lesson as well as sticking it to Republicans) before “Let’s Go Stare at Bloody Dead Bodies” exhumes the heart and rhythm of “When Ya Get Drafted” before the album’s title track attains a flawless sense of straightforward sense of social criticism and satire which is impossible to deny. Right from the beginning, Spight takes a more (comparatively) methodical and almost ornate position as he uses his guitar to build the song, and both Willer and Boothroyd follow suit to present a thick, powerful and incredibly direct sound. The beginning of the song is incredibly infectious and after “Tea Party Revenge Porn” makes its introduction, the sound parts to hard left and hard right channels, leaving ample space for Jello’s vocal – and the singer takes all he can. As he has always done when he’s at his best or most inspired moments, Biafra crosses poignant and absurd vocal themes (“We’re havin’ us a jamboree!” and discussions of anger and overt racism and bigotry in a large arena like the Tea Party) with great punk composition which cross-wires the farcical and the fantastic. Perhaps it’s perfect that the title track closes the album, as it does; in this way, listeners are left with a potent and affecting image, and the band gets to walk away boldly; appearing to have made the strongest point. That point proves infectious too – as listeners will feel compelled to restart the album over again, not because they might have missed something, just because it left so powerfully that those listening won’t be finished feeling it.

That notion of power carries over – after one has run front-to-back with Tea Party Revenge Porn. Now twelve years from when they started, Guantanamo School of Medicine is about as established as a punk band is normally given to getting, so that this punk band is still capable of augmenting their form and producing music which continues to challenge fans as well as the public at large is a statement which borders on profound. Because they managed to change up their form in such a satisfying manner here, there’s no question that fans will be rightly satisfied with Tea Party Revenge Porn. Here’s hoping that they choose not to wait eight years to issue a follow-up to it. [Bill Adams]


Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – “Tea Party Revenge Porn”
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – “Taliban U.S.A.”

Tea Party Revenge Porn is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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