04 NOVEMBER 2003
The ‘War on Terror’ has produced a number of new social commentators, but for those journalists and public intellectuals who have been critical of American foreign policy over the past two or three decades what exists now is the logical result not of one man but of a system. Jello Biafra, Green Party activist, Alternative Tentacles proprietor and former lead singer of the punk band Dead Kennedys appeared at University of London's Union (ULU), November 2nd, in support of his seventh spoken word release, Machine Gun In The Clown's Hand.
Jello continues to make an impact musically (see Lard's 2000 release, 70's Rock Must Die), but he has increasingly focused on spoken word recordings critical of American political and economic hegemony. Now devoid of driving punk rhythms, these new recordings are nevertheless from the same mind that created the singles Holiday In Cambodia, Kill The Poor, and the classic album Bedtime For Democracy.
From the dark emerged two glowing eyes... and a voice ordering us, the public, to "Shut up! Obey! Be Happy! Obey!" After reciting a litany of civil rights that have been repealed in America after passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, lights reveal Jello Biafra dressed in a judge's robe smiling from the stage.
Focusing on the current war in Iraq and the ‘War on Terror’, Jello chronicled the familiar and sometimes obtuse justifications for this conflict. Quoting Bush, "If we go to war, peace will break out all over the Middle East." The questions come: Why Iraq? Why now? How did this guy (Bush) “get buttered and squirted through Yale and Harvard?” The question is begged: how did this guy become president? The answer: well, he wasn’t elected by the majority of voters.
Often referring to Tiny Town, a little known Hollywood "midget" Western, he draws corollaries between it and the Bush administration's imperialist agenda. Such bizarre and humorous analogies make Jello a Diogenes for our day.
But like some prophets, he often spoke to the converted. At times it seemed Jello ran out of steam, and the audience clearly reflected this. Still, he has an important message that warrants repeating; but at nearly four hours, his performance was way too long. If you missed it, or left before the night bus was your only option home, Machine Gun In The Clown’s Hand is avaible on CD in a shorter -edited- version.
Adam Christopher Snow © 2003