post-punk gems, v. 80 — The Dead Kennedys’ “Viva Las Vegas”

Got my time machine set on 1980 again, and lo! — it’s now 35 years since The Dead Kennedys’ debut LP hit record bins in the UK. The LP cover image of a row of burning motorcars–from the aftermath of riots following the light sentence for homophobe Dan “it was the Twinkies” White, for the murder of SF Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk–evokes the flipside of The Clash’s LP cover from the Notting Hill riots, and the sound in the grooves is equally disruptive.

From the opening passage of “Kill the Poor,” to the final bars of “Viva Las Vegas,” Jello Biafra and his gang cook up a rousing pot of humor, dissonance, and melodic hooks at a blistering pace.

I have a real soft spot for “Viva,” one of the finest covers in the punk canon, since Vegas itself signifies so boldly the opposite of the DIY spirit embraced by DK and Alternative Tentacles and punk writ large. The opening drum bit, along with the rollicking bass and guitar riffs, are punk classics. Biafra’s vocals, too, in their spoof of Elvis’s vocal timbre in the verses and enthusiastic bite in the chorus, are simply fantastic. Enjoy!

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