Great Punk Albums of 1985: Dead Kennedys- Frankenchrist


“Frankenchrist” was the third full length and most controversial album from the San Francisco punk outfit, Dead Kennedys. The band steered away from their hardcore punk and more towards a psychedelic side. For one, they introduced the use of keyboards and East Bay Ray’s guitar playing has been described as more atmospheric than on previous DK albums. I’ll get to that in a moment but some of the songs are slower and longer but other songs prove that they hadn’t completely abandoned the sound that shot them to the top of the punk scene in the early 1980s.

On the subject of East Bay Ray’s guitar playing on “Frankenchrist.” At that time, everyone was talking about the unique guitar sound of The Edge from U2 and I don’t disagree that he played some great licks on those early albums. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and venture the opinion that East Bay Ray blows him away with his guitar playing. His psychedelic-punk licks are splattered all over the album and for me, it is what makes this album unique and so brilliant. Backed up great vocals and a super rhythm section, he is simply allowed to shine. “Chicken Farm” is the best example.

Another great aspect of this album is the topics covered in the songs. The band, especially Jello Biafra, wasn’t afraid to speak out about the problems in 1985 through the music. Take the opener, “Soup is Good Food.” It’s about how someone gets made redundant from their job but after six weeks their unemployment benefit runs out so they’re no longer an unemployment statistic. All through 1984 and 85, the Regan administration kept saying how unemployment was going down when all they did was fiddle the figures. Then again, the Dead Kennedys were never afraid of being controversial.

The track “Jock-O-Rama” pokes fun at how high schools push sports over learning and how athletes, American football players especially get treated like Gods and can get away with things like getting drunk and then crashing the car. The verse about the injured player really sums the attitude of the time. It does reflect a scene from “Rock And Roll Children” where some football players start a fight with the main characters and when it’s broken up, teacher’s sympathies lie towards the jocks.

Of all the tracks, however, the best one is “MTV Get Off the Air.” This was very topical of the time because by 1985, MTV really began to suck and became nothing more than a glorified commercial radio station. These lyrics sum it up perfectly:

It’s a new frontier they say

It’s wide open, anything can happen

But you have a lot of nerve to call yourselves a pioneer

When you are too conservative to take real chances.

Track Listing:

  1. Soup is Good Food
  2. Hellnation
  3. This Could Be Anywhere
  4. A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch
  5. Chicken Farm
  6. Jock-O-Rama
  7. Goons of Hazzard
  8. MTV- Get Off the Air
  9. At My Job
  10. Stars and Stripes of Corruption

Dead Kennedys

Jello Biafra- lead vocals

East Bay Ray- guitar, synthesizer, 12 string bellzouki

Klaus Floride- bass, backing vocals

DH Peligro- drums, backing vocals

Additional Musicians

John Leib- trumpet on “MTV Get Off the Air”

Tim Jones- keyboards on “A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch”

“Frankenchrist” marked a change of direction for the Dead Kennedys but it was a turn for the good. In spite of this being such a great album, it did land the band, Jello Biafra especially in hot water. The four men photographed on the album cover sued the band, I guess for misappropriation of their images even though the photo first appeared in Newsweek magazine in the 1970s, nearly a full decade before the release of this album. Even worse, in 1986, criminal charges would be filed against Jello Biafra for distribution of obscene material to minors. This was down to the picture on the inner sleeve of HR Greiger’s painting called “Landscape XX” which showed a garden of penises and vaginas. More details of that will be told when I get to 1986.

Next post: Venom- Official Bootleg

To download Rock and Roll Children, go to: 















3 Responses to “Great Punk Albums of 1985: Dead Kennedys- Frankenchrist”

  1. I can’t stop saying soup is good food to my wife any time soup is suggested in real life. Becuase of this album.

    All the time.

    Liked by 2 people

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