Reviews

Celebrating four decades of the Dead Kennedys

by Mike Sorensen
Posted: Apr. 22, 2019 5:12 pm Updated: Apr. 22, 2019 5:32 pm

At the height of the disco era, when bell-bottoms and flared collars ruled, there was a counter-culture movement in the clubs and streets that scared parents and authorities alike. From the Mercer Arts Center and CBGB in New York to the 100 Club and Roundhouse in London, the punk scene was scorching its way around the world.

In 1978, this spark ignited in the souls of a gang of outcasts from San Francisco that gathered together and took on the moniker of Dead Kennedys. Battling the establishment at every level, with provocative and controversial lyrics, the Dead Kennedys would make a bold name for themselves in a brief time, both at home and abroad.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first single, the band compiled a new album set that brings together three live shows from their most infamous period, titled “DK 40.” The first two discs are shows recorded just days apart. First up, a December 5, 1982 show recorded at Paradiso in Amsterdam. The second is from Alabama Halle in Munich on December 13 the same year. These recordings are exactly what you want and expect from a live Kennedys' show: dirty, raw, and full of fast and furious energy. This isn't to say the recordings aren't quality. They are, without question, live recordings from the early 80s, but the quality is still incredible. The mastering is fantastic and the spirit of the show comes through the speakers or headphones with every note and scream.

The same holds true for the third disc and show in the set is from the tail-end of their (original) live career, recorded at The Farm in San Francisco on May 24, 1985 just a few months before their decision to end the band. This disc captures the live essences of the stalwarts of the original punk scene, even as that scene was transitioning into something more aggressive and abrasive, even to some of those that were in the thick of it – like the Dead Kennedys themselves.

This album set is a must-have, not only for Kennedys fans, but for anyone that needs to feel that communal rush again. The adrenaline spike of the shows, the anti-establishment mentality of the late 70s and early 80s that comes through in “Moral Majority” and “Riot” and plunges straight to the heart with “Police Truck” and “Holiday in Cambodia,” this collection brings it all back to life. If you were there and want to relive it, or if you weren't and want to know what it was all about, this is the purchase to make.

“DK 40” is available everywhere on April 26th.