Like a rabid dog with a freshly killed animal’s bones, Dead Kennedys are impossible to pin down on the instrumental progression with these raging performances as the next step from their debut record, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. The stepping stone comes from the first musical track, “Government Flu” where the rampant guitars from East Bay Ray and string sections on bass from Klaus Fluoride are prideful but have this sadistic undertone to them. Quickly, the percussion from D. H. Peligro blasts onto the scene, and the lead vocalist’s first appearance, Jello Biafra begins to shout over the more hardcore-centric instrumentation.
Describing, “We got a drug, we’re gonna try it out on you. Won’t make you die, it’ll get ya just a little bit sick.” When images of 2020 flash into the brain, the chorus describes, “got a head cold, got a chest cold, and it’s three days old. Make you hazy, make you lazy, make you crazy. For days and days and days and days and days, and years.” While “Government Flu” has no real moments of winding down, the following track “Terminal Preppy” is an even faster and more belligerent assault to the audience.
Similar to the live performances from Dead Kennedys, the band is all over the place on Plastic Surgery Disasters, but the work of the saxophones from Dave Barrett and Bruce Askley on “Terminal Preppy” are godlike in orchestrating a form of both a laugh and dialogue for the audience. The bass is catchy from Fluoride, giving Dead Kennedys this method to the madness where underneath all that rapid-fire charm, are some truly intricate and talented musical presentations.
It feels like each track on Plastic Surgery Disasters is better than the last with “Trust Your Mechanic” leading into “Well Paid Scientist,” finally rounding the corner with “Buzzbomb” where the one-two snaps of the percussion are like whiplash to the head. The instrumental here is the main attraction as Biafra shouts nearly in operatic methods with these wails and vibrato styles to match the waving production.
Most of Biafra’s unique vocal falsettos become more than the natural range for his voice, giving Dead Kennedys some power to work with tone in music. With the track “Bleed For Me,” a guitar from East Bay Ray matches Biafra’s often high-pitched delivery and takes a mosh pit-inducing instrumental as a coalition. Also highlighting some calming torture tactics, Biafra describes, “In the name of world peace, in the name of world profits. America pumps up our secret police. America wants fuel, to get it, it needs puppets. So what’s 10 million dead, if it’s keeping out the Russians?”
As the instrumentation begins to get faster and faster, the trip down the bridge back to the main riffs are welcome enough to cover the flag not in pride and emotion, but instead in blood and misery.
Ending finally on a high note of nuclear immolation, “Moon Over Marin” is the closest radio-friendly output from Plastic Surgery Disasters that Dead Kennedys can give. The cheerful guitars almost illicit the feeling of yacht rock but with the morose and nihilistic ability of writing that Dead Kennedys are the kings of.
Illustrating a world torn apart by harmful gas and pollution, Biafra describes, “The crowded future stings my eyes, I still find time to exercise in a uniform with two white stripes. Unlock my section of the sand, it’s fenced off to the water’s edge. I clamp a gas mask on my head.” When the guitar reaches this breaking point, the higher tonality takes the second verse to illustrate, “Another tanker’s hit the rocks, abandoned to spill out its guts, the sand is laced with sticky glops.” Becoming entirely focused on the forced ugliness that the narrator has to endure, they end the second verse describing, “shimmering moonlight sheen upon the waves and water clogged with oil, white gases steam up from the soil.”
But it can’t be all misery with Dead Kennedys, or maybe honestly it can. The group takes the 1982 release and pushes it down the throat until it is fully digested with a forced, but healthy serving of seconds.