The obscenity case fought over the Dead Kennedys
' album Frankenchrist
was a prolonged and bitter battle that Jello Biafra, the band, and the co-defendants eventually won, but the case was not without cost: Alternative Tentacles, which Biafra owned, was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by all of the legal bills involved with the case. Partly as a consequence of having to raise cash and partly as a consequence of being so involved with the backdoor workings of both the music industry and the legal system, Biafra became a much more outspoken critic of censorship and political issues, opting to do a number of spoken word engagements around the country, some of which are captured on this two-record set. Of course, there are some tales from the trial, with the entirety of side three devoted to the battle being fought with Tipper Gore and the PMRC. On the remaining sides, Biafra explores a number of other political and civil rights issues, from the controversy over urinalysis to just what it was that Reagan didn't know while he was president. The way he rails on about the government and how it's working to undermine basic civil rights, both home and abroad, may have seemed a little hysterical and perhaps even a bit paranoid at the time, but it's interesting to see just how many of the issues discussed on this album have come back to haunt us more than once, especially terrorism. Most of the time, Biafra leavens these fairly heavy-duty subjects with a good dose of humor, but the closing track, "Stars & Stripes of Corruption," gets more thoughtful as it goes on. If you're aligned with Biafra's sensibilities, it's a fairly humorous listen, even this far down the road, but it does suffer a little too much from the preaching-to-the-converted syndrome -- if you lean toward the conservative in the least, you'll probably find it infuriatingly one-sided. Which may be half the point.