Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine: Hard, Fast and Pissed off!

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BAND: Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine
ALBUM: Enhanced Methods of Questioning
YEAR: 2011

Alternative Tentacles

Written By: Rene Trujillo
Jun 02 2011

Ok, let me begin by saying, that many hardcore punk bands of the 80's had socially and politically aware songs which questioned and criticized everything from the ultra conservative establishment to the "deer in the headlights" consumer culture which was, and still is, destroying this planet.  One of the more prolific of these where the Dead Kennedys.    As a kid, there were only a few bands which really had an impact on me; yeah, I jammed most anything at high volume, but the Dead Kennedys was one band I actually listened to.  There is a big difference to hearing and listening and this album is definitely worth listening to.

Recently, as many of you know, Jello Biafra has added his vocals to the talents of Guitarist Kimo Ball (hailing from Freak Accident and Mol Triffid among others), Bassist Billy Gould (From Faith No More fame), Jon Weiss on drums (Sharkbait and Horsey) and Ralph Spight also on Guitar (Freak Accident, Victims Family, Hellworms) to form Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine.

Their first album Audacity Of Hype came out in 2009 and now  comes their second offering: Enhanced Methods of Questioning.

To tell you the truth, I hadn't heard their music before and  I wasn't at all sure what to expect, especially when you have five guys coming from bands with such a variety of sound; oranges to apples so to speak.

Ok, let's give it a try, I wait and BOOM! "Dot Com Monte Carlo"  blasts into a whirlwind of rage and condemnation towards tech yuppies invading San Francisco; just read the first line:

"Why are they here?

Hi-tech piranhas

With Bluetooth barnacle ears"

I am quickly enveloped in that same familiar sound of reproach towards cultural ills from days gone past which, I am ecstatic to find, is still  very much alive and well with Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine!  From the first note, it's straight to the point, no messing around, all backed by an inimitable style which perfectly blends this band's musical backgrounds into a driving rhythm  that makes you want to get into the pit.

All goes quiet, then "The Cells That will Not Die" comes in with  Jon Weiss pounding away on the kit, then guitars and bass join in to lay down the goods, heavier than the previous song.  But, while listening closer, you start to make out the lyrics; again, the first line:

"Henrietta Lacks died in '51

Of cancer so exotic that they saved some

Culture in a dish

Every day doubling in size

Spreading and contaminating,

Henrietta is still alive."

And later:

" Flesh-eating bacteria

Hantavirus, AIDS, ebola

Festers in me

Like mad cow

Where is Henrietta now?"

You can just hear the malevolence of cancerous cells in the chorus and Biafra closes the song with an almost Peter Lorre like, mad-scientist inflection to his singing which drives the message home with a creepy perfection!

Ahhhh yes, Jello another victim to your observations down, a few more to go...eloquently belted as ever before.

Make no mistake, this album is not the Dead Kennedys, it's heavier and tighter with a distinctive sound all its own.

Biafra's voice sounds just as good (and pissed off)  as it had on Bedtime For Democracy, Billy Gould's bass flawlessly keeps the speakers vibrating as it had done with Faith No More, Kimo Ball and Ralph Spight's guitars complement each other with excellence and Weiss keeps those beats coming with power.

The perfect unison of styles is best captured on the track "Invasion Of The Mind Snatchers"  which, incidentally,  is  my second favorite track on the album because the chords of Spight and Ball are just Shredding throughout, with the entire band meshing seamlessly into a resounding wall of pure rock n roll.

Each track on the album is a jewel if you are into any of the member's previous work. My favorite track of 'em all is the appropriately named "Metamorphosis Exploration On Deviation Street Jam", which has the feel of a freestyle jam to it; almost like the  guys are gettin' together and just rolling with it.

Midway through the song, Jello belts out:  "I just got to do what's right on deviation street", throwing out a firm "fuck you" to people who will criticize no matter what one, that's what I am talking about!

I think  that's what has always drawn me to Jello's work, the underlining message has always seemed to be: "don't conform", and, at least to me, Jello understands conforming isn't just about putting a suit and tie on; it's conforming to a social group to meet their expectations rather than being true to yourself.

"...I knew most importantly of all that I was me...."

Jello's influence may have been why I stood up one day, looked around, saw the future of the struggle for social acceptance, goon suits , indentured servitude under credit card debt and the desensitized apathy of herd mentality in the faces of people around me and said: "screw this", packed my bags and hopped a third world bus to life.

"I don't care what the internet says about me..."

Well put, maestro, well put.

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