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Music / Jello Biafra

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"For every prohibition you create, you also create an underground."

"I think one of the most important things punk brought back was the whole concept of staying independent and doing things yourself. It made music a lot less boring in any category you can name."

While undoubtedly best known as the frontman of Hardcore Punk legends Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra (born Eric Boucher, June 17, 1958) has had quite a career since leaving the band as well. He has amassed quite a large number of spoken-word albums about political activism as well as a large body of recorded music that mostly serves as Spiritual Successors to the Kennedys' output. His music recordings, both as collaborations with other artists (D.O.A., Nomeansno, Mojo Nixon, Melvins, most of Ministry as Lard, members of Steel Pole Bath Tub and Grong Grong as Tumor Circus) and with his own band the Guantanamo School of Medicine, have made him a respected elder statesman in the world of punk (a condition he even comments on in the song "Enchanted Thoughtfist"). While his former bandmates from the Kennedys have evolved into the living incarnation of Money, Dear Boy, half-heartedly playing songs "from the good old days about how bad the good old days were", Biafra continues to evolve and to produce some awesome new tunes. He also owns and operates the Alternative Tentacles label.


See Dead Kennedys for his releases with them.

Solo, spoken-word:

  • 1987 - No More Cocoons
  • 1989 - High Priest of Harmful Matter: Tales From the Trial
  • 1991 - I Blow Minds for a Living
  • 1994 - Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police
  • 1998 - If Evolution Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve
  • 2000 - Become the Media
  • 2002 - The Big Ka-Boom, Pt. 1
  • 2002 - Machine Gun in the Clown's Hand
  • 2006 - In the Grip of Official Treason

Collaborations with other artists:

  • 1990 - Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors (with D.O.A.)
  • 1991 - The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy (with Nomeansno)
  • 1991 - Tumor Circus (with Tumor Circus)
  • 1994 - Prairie Home Invasion (with Mojo Nixon; sessions also produced the single Will the Fetus Be Aborted?)
  • 2000 - Live from the Battle in Seattle (with the No W.T.O. Combo, a short-lived supergroup including Kim Thayil and Krist Novoselic, as well as Novoselic's Sweet 75 bandmate Gina Mainwal)
  • 2004 - Never Breathe What You Can't See (with Melvins)
  • 2005 - Sieg Howdy! (with Melvins)
  • 2015 - Walk on Jindal's Splinters (live, with the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars, a supergroup of Southern musicians)

With Lard (collaboration with Al Jourgensen and others):

  • 1989 - The Power of Lard (EP)
  • 1990 - I Am Your Clock (EP)
  • 1990 - The Last Temptation of Reid
  • 1997 - Pure Chewing Satisfaction
  • 2000 - 70's Rock Must Die (EP)

With the Guantanamo School of Medicine:

  • 2009 - The Audacity of Hype
  • 2011 - Enhanced Methods of Questioning (marketed as an EP, despite containing over forty minutes of music)
  • 2012 - Shock-u-py! (single)
  • 2013 - White People and the Damage Done
  • 2020 - Tea Party Revenge Porn

Tropes present in his post-Kennedys career include:

  • Album Title Drop: Most of the albums avert it. White People and the Damage Done and Tea Party Revenge Porn play it straight, and The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy almost plays it straight (the lyrics say "The sky is melting and I want my mommy" instead). Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors is more subtle about it; "Full Metal Jackoff" gives the quote listed below under Cleanup Crew, then asks:
    If someone came for you one night and dragged you away
    Do you really think your neighbors would even care?
  • Bad Boss: Present in many of his songs, but the bosses in "Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster" have to take the cake. They locked their workers into the factory to boost productivity levels, then it burned down. Horrifyingly, this is based on real-life events; twenty-five people died and forty more were injured.
  • Black Comedy: Jello's stage name, which juxtaposes the name of a cheap, mass-produced dessert with the infamous Biafran Civil War, one of the more publicised cases of mass starvation in Africa. Plus quite a lot of his songs.
  • Call-Back:
    • "I Wish I Was in El Salvador" refers to "Kill the Poor" by name.
    • "Burgers of Wrath" refers to "Soup Is Good Food" by name.
    • A line about songs "from the good old days about how bad the good old days were" appears in both "Buy My Snake Oil" and "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)", the second time as a Take That! towards Jello's former bandmates.
    • The refrain of "Chew" off The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy is used again in "Dawn of the Locusts".
    • Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death is name-dropped in "Strength Thru Shopping".
  • Cleanup Crew/Unperson: From "Full Metal Jackoff":
    My van's a mobile oven now
    It burns the bodies you never see
    Just like in Chile or Guatemala
    People just seem to disappear
  • Chick Tracts: Referenced by name in "Dawn of the Locusts" and "Crapture".
  • City of Spies: "McGruff the Crime Dog" asks, "Why not hire half the country to spy on the other half?"
  • Competition Freak: "The Ghost of Vince Lombardi" deconstructs and criticizes this mindset, claiming it's "poison" that permeates American society and damages kids worse than TV or video games.
    The ghost of Vince Lombardi, where dirty tricks are cool
    Someone's gotta win and someone's gotta lose
    The ghost of Vince Lombardi rules the marketplace
    He who dies with the most toys wins
    This is why this country has no soul, has no sense of community
  • Cover Album: Walk on Jindal's Splinters.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Will the Fetus Be Aborted?" and "Let's Go Burn Ole Nashville Down" are based on older songs but have completely different lyrics unrelated to the concepts of the songs they were based on (although the former is a snowclone of the original song's title, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"). "Achey Rakey Heart", more pointedly, contains a direct Take That! towards the original performer, Billy Ray Cyrus.
  • Cover Version:
    • With D.O.A. he covered The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place".
    • "Bad" on The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy is technically a cover of backing band Nomeansno's side project The Hanson Brothers, but they wouldn't release their own version until a year later on their debut album.
    • With Mojo Nixon he covered Darryl Cherney's "Where Are We Gonna Work (When the Trees Are Gone?)", Fred Kirby's "Atomic Power", Phil Ochs' "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" (with some new lyrics to make it more current to The '90s), the Goldcoast Singers' novelty hit "Plastic Jesus", the traditional songs "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" (with new lyrics by environmental activist Judi Bari as "Will the Fetus Be Aborted?") and "Old Joe Clark" (with new lyrics as "Let's Go Burn Ole Nashville Down"). There was also a "cover" of Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achey Breaky Heart" entitled "Achey Rakey Heart", which as one might expect is more of a Parody and Take That!; however, note that this last song is actually credited to Eugene Chadbourne & Evan Johns, despite appearing on Jello and Mojo's single for "Will the Fetus Be Aborted".
    • With Melvins he covered Alice Cooper's "Halo of Flies", as well as a version of Dead Kennedys' "California Über Alles" given new lyrics referring to then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    • With Lard he covered Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away".
    • With the Guantanamo School of Medicine, "Metamorphosis Exploration on Deviation Street Jam" is a reworking of the Deviants' "Metamorphosis Explosion".
  • Dreadful Musician: Zig-Zagged. Jello doesn't play any instruments on his recordings because, well, he's not very good at it, by his own admission. He started out trying to teach the other band members the parts he wrote by playing them on guitar and it wound up being easier for him to just scat-sing the parts. (This would cost him when his former band mates in the Dead Kennedys sued him). However, he's a very skilled composer. Nearly 90% of the Dead Kennedys songs were solely written by him, and he's responsible for quite a lot of the songwriting on his collaborations as well. He's also managed to be one of the most iconic front men in punk, which serves as a testament to his stage presence and prowess as a vocalist.
  • Drives Like Crazy: "Plastic Jesus", "Yuppie Cadillac"
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Shows up sometimes. The singing doesn't start until 2:40 into "Chew", for example.
  • Epic Rocking: Parodied with Lard's "70s Rock Must Die", which features all kinds of Seventies hard rock tropes including gratuitous cowbell, endless guitar solos, a Power Ballad style bridge, vocal histrionics, an overly repetitive chorus, and of course the obligatory Big Rock Ending. Played straight with several other songs:
    • Lard's 6:37 "Pineapple Face", 7:29 "The Power of Lard", 8:28 "They're Coming to Take Me Away", 15:29 "I Am Your Clock", and 31:55 "Time to Melt" (though the latter two could be considered subversions as they don't go through tons of changes; they're just really slow).
    • Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors has the 13:57 "Full Metal Jackoff"; D.O.A. frontman Joey Shithead recounts that the song was recorded in one take with Biafra giving the band hand signals for different sections of the song, and that by the end drummer Jon Card's cymbal-hitting arm was "ready to fall off".
    • The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy has the 8:48 "Chew" and the 6:35 "Sharks in the Gene Pool".
    • Tumor Circus has the 9:03 "Hazing for Success (Pork Grind Confidential)", the 7:08 "Fireball", the 6:52 "Calcutta a-Go-Go", and the 15:38 "Turn Off the Respirator".
    • Prairie Home Invasion has the 9:07 "Buy My Snake Oil".
    • Never Breathe What You Can't See has the 6:20 "Islamic Bomb" and the 6:09 "Caped Crusader".
    • Sieg Howdy! has the 7:43 "Halo of Flies", the 7:55 "The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism (extended space-melt version)", and the 7:33 "Caped Crusader (Subway Gas/Hello Kitty mix)".
    • The Audacity of Hype has the 6:05 "Three Strikes" and the 21:13 "I Won't Give Up" (though the actual song is 7:14 and it ends with an 8:01 Hidden Track featuring all the songs played at once after about 7 minutes of silence).
    • Enhanced Methods of Questioning has the 32:03 "Miracle Penis Island" (though the actual song is 7:38 and it includes the 18:23 "Metamorphosis Exploration on Deviation Street Jam" as a Hidden Track).
    • White People and the Damage Done has the 14:34 "Shock-u-py!" (though around half of that is silence; the actual song is about 7:40), the 6:52 "Crapture (Flight F.I.N.A.L. Space Blast Extension)", and the 7:34 "Shock-u-py! (Soul Clap mix)".
    • Walk on Jindal's Splinters has the 12:37 "Walk on Gilded Splinters".
  • Fox News Liberal: As with Phil Ochs' original, Jello and Mojo Nixon's version of "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" eviscerates them.
  • Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!: The Trope Namer is mocked as a hypocrite in "The Myth Is Real - Let's Eat":
    Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or death"
    At the time he owned sixty-five slaves
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Viciously deconstructed in "Will the Fetus Be Aborted?", which spends most of its verses describing reasons a good girl might get an abortion (e.g. addictions, being a victim of rape and/or Parental Incest, being likely to die from pregnancy, already having enough kids, etc.), then in the final verse:
    Tanya lived for revolution
    Wanted to overthrow the state
    She had fifteen Commie babies
    Phyllis Schlafly, ain't that great?
  • Gratuitous Panning: Appears in several places in the remix of "Caped Crusader".
  • Hidden Track: The Audacity of Hype and Enhanced Methods of Questioning both have them (and in each case they're the longest song on the album, if the one on Audacity qualifies as a "song"). White People and the Damage Done doesn't, technically, but does feature four bonus tracks after about seven minutes of silence, so it's still similar.
  • Hummer Dinger: Subjected to a song-length Take That! in "Yuppie Cadillac".
  • Hypocrite: "Nostalgia for an Age That Never Existed" and "Lessons in What Not to Become" both criticise Boomers for telling their kids "Just Say No" when they themselves frequently had adolescences full of sex and drugs. The latter song also examines a few other instances of hypocrisy.
  • "I Am" Song: "I Am Your Clock", about how modern society is ruled by time, amongst other things.
  • I Want My Mommy!: The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy
  • Industrial Metal: His work with Lard mostly falls into this trope, unsurprisingly.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Stated almost word-for-word in "Chew".
  • Just Like Robin Hood: "John Dillinger", though it uses a liberal dose of Sarcasm Mode to get its point across.
  • Kill the Poor: Referenced by name in "Wish I Was in El Salvador".
  • Last Note Nightmare: The Audacity of Hype ends with an eight-minute Hidden Track featuring all the songs from the album played at once (though since most of them have finished playing by the end of the track, the track may actually be taken as something of an inversion of this trope as well). The remix of "Caped Crusader" is also an example.
  • List Song: Often combined with a Take That!.
    • From "Yuppie Cadillac":
      What is it 'bout the Navigator, Escalade, Suburban, Explorer, Yukon
      That brings out the road rage macho dick in everybody who drives one?
      Icy curves, slow down; another Pathfinder found its way to hell
      What a great way to thin the herd
    • In "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)", Jello reacts to his former bandmates enlisting a Former Child Star as his replacement:
      And if our scam works, what a bandwagon it will be
      Malcolm in the Middle in The Misfits, or Mary-Kate and Ashley
      Gary Coleman in Black Flag, Courtney in Nirvana at last
      And Emmanuel Lewis back in action singing for The Germs
      When will it end? When people see this for what it is
      Rock and Roll Swindle Pistols backed a thief
      So how about Martha Stewart in Dead Kennedys?note 
    • "Mascot Mania" starts with a list of sports teams and the unusual behaviour of their fans, then suggests renaming sports teams with Take Thats towards their hometowns (partially as a Take That! towards the real-life Washington Redskins, whose name has been a sore point with real-life American Indians for decades):
      It seems to me that to stay mean, these names should change with time
      The New York Muggers, Detroit Murders, and Chicago Mob
      Boston Bigots, Texas Swindlers, and the L.A. Cops
      Miami Drugs, New Jersey Dumps take on the Denver Smog
      Seattle Fads, New Orleans Hoods, Milwaukee Cannibals
      San Diego Jarheads and the Arizona Drought
      That's mascot mania, mascot mania, uh-huh.
      Go, Carp, go! Salmonbellies rule!
      Hit 'em harder Cops! But a hockey team called The Mighty Ducks?
      Heads explode when Dallas Oswalds meet Washington Bribes
      Home team band plays Cop Killer when L.A. comes to town
      Pittsburgh Polluters, Houston Drive-Bys; don't stir near the fear
      When the Florida Abortion Bombers meet the San Francisco Queers
      That's mascot mania, mascot mania, uh-huh.
      Anywhere you go, the game's the same old thing
      Bet your money on the Bribes; they always win
  • Loudness War: Averted with his older work. His newer work starting around the Turn of the Millennium dips into this somewhat, but is still nowhere near as bad as the worst examples of the trope. The worst example of this in his work is Live from the Battle in Seattle, which, at DR6, still isn't anywhere near as bad as the worst offenders. Lard, a collaboration with members of Ministry (whose music for the past couple of decades has generally been a straight example of this trope), also falls into this somewhat, though some songs and releases are worse about it than others.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Referenced in "Plethysmograph":
    Flash ya pictures, Clockwork Orange-style
    Let's see what makes Stewart smile
  • Miniscule Rocking: Not as often as you'd probably expect given his Hardcore Punk roots. His only post-Kennedys track that actually falls under the two-minute limit mentioned in the trope description is the fifty-second-long "Voted Off the Island" from Sieg Howdy!. "Bad" from the Nomeansno collaboration is 2:18, and after that all his other songs are at least two and a half minutes long.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Targeted in "John Dillinger" among others.
  • Noise Rock: Tumor Circus has elements of this.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: "Caped Crusader" swipes some of its lines from 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta and some from then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, and in the liner notes invites the listener to "spot the difference".
  • Pretender Diss: Just like the original, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" is this to Fox News Liberals.
  • Protest Song: Most, if not all, of his output.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot/Ripped from the Headlines: Several of his songs are based on real-life events, including the Tear Jerker "Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster".
  • Rock-Star Song: "Enchanted Thoughtfist" is an unusually introspective example, as it features Jello reflecting on his legacy and advising listeners, "Don't just question authority/Don't forget to question me".
  • Sarcasm Mode: Used so often in his lyrics you might think it was his default voice.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Enchanted Thoughtfist" into "Dawn of the Locusts".
  • Sinister Surveillance: Taken to its logical extreme in "McGruff the Crime Dog", which satirically proposes hiring half the country to spy on the other half.
  • Special Guest: Adam Jones of tool on literally half the tracks on each Melvins collaboration. Mike Scaccia of Ministry and Rigor Mortis also shows up on "Enchanted Thoughtfist".
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Metamorphosis Exploration on Deviation Street Jam", mostly, although Jello sings in it some too. "Shock-U-Py!" uses it some too.
  • Take That!: As with his Dead Kennedys material, plentiful, including a few against his former bandmates in "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)" and "Voted Off the Island". He's taken a few at Barack Obama from a left-wing perspective as well ("Barackstar O'Bummer" and the album title The Audacity of Hype being the most obvious; "I Won't Give Up" counts as well). The album title Walk on Jindal's Splinters is a Take That! to Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana at the time (the album was recorded in New Orleans with a cast of New Orleans musicians and largely consists of covers of songs associated with New Orleans).
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Although he comes from a Hardcore Punk background, this trope is normally averted. He plays the Protest Song nature of hardcore straight, but tends to write much more complex songs than are the norm for the genre (see the number of straight Epic Rocking examples above for proof).
  • Title Track: Only White People and the Damage Done has one.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Attack of the Peacekeepers", "Power Is Boring", "Yuppie Cadillac", etc.
  • Uncommon Time: The verses of "Enchanted Thoughtfist" are in 7/4. "Dawn of the Locusts" has a riff in 13/8. When industrial hip-hop group dälek remixed the latter track, they put a 4/4 drumbeat under the whole song just to make it even more disorienting. Meanwhile, "Sharks in the Gene Pool" from the Nomeansno collaboration goes through several time signature changes, with one of its riffs in 7/4, and from Lard's The Last Temptation of Reid, "Sylvestre Matruschka" is mostly in 5/4. (The usage of this trope is part of Nomeansno's Signature Style; they are known as an Ur-Example of Math Rock for a reason.)
  • Villain Song: Many of Biafra's songs count as this, but "Bruce's Diary" off his album with Nomeansno The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy is sung from the point of view of his villainous Terminal City Ricochet character Bruce Coddle.
  • Vocal Tag Team: On his album with Mojo Nixon they are this. Most of the other time if any other vocalists share vocals with him it's a case of Step Up to the Microphone.