Music Video Distributors presents
Dead Kennedys: The Early Years Live (1987)
"Now it is 1984Knock, knock at your front doorIt's the suede denim secret policeThey have come for your uncool niece."- lyrics from California Uber Alles
Stars: Jello Biafra, Klaus Flouride, D.H. Peligro, Ted, East Bay Ray, 6025
Director: Joe Reese
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violent images)
Run Time: 29m:26s
Release Date: 2001-07-10
DVD ReviewIn 1980 I saw the Dead Kennedys at a smoky, sweaty downstairs club in Chicago, and I remember being simply overpowered by the dynamic stage presence of lead singer Jello Biafra as he snarled and swirled his way through a brutally fast set of music. As one of the rising stars of the then West Coast punk scene (specifically San Francisco), the DK's merged revolutionary political messages with an open smirk. The band veered back and forth across the lines separating intense musical rage and downright comical social commentary, and one was never certain just how serious to take the band and their message. Even with a heavy dose of political hostility, the band could also spit out a brainless classic like the single Too Drunk To F***, which unfortunately is nowhere to found on this DVD. Their debut album, released in 1980, was Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, and introduced such thrash classics as Kill The Poor, Let's Lynch The Landlord, Holiday In Cambodia, and the epic California Uber Alles, which sharply ridiculed the actions of Governor Jerry Brown and offered some laughable Nazi comparisons. Along with Biafra, who attempted to run for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 (he finished 4th), the band consisted of bassist Klaus Flouride, drummer Ted (later replaced by D.H. Peligro), and guitarist East Bay Ray. The DK's were occasionally backed up live by the additional guitar of the mysterious and uniquely named 6025.The DK's disbanded in 1986, and this collection of concert footage, which runs a threadbare thirty minutes, is apparently some of the only footage remaining of the band performing live; what it lacks in audio quality is made up for in comic energy. Biafra had a strong theatric flair, and was not simply an anonymous hardcore screamer. Some of the tracks have real audio flaws, while two (Bleed For Me and Holiday In Cambodia) were recorded at Target Studios, without an audience, and offer the best sound quality on the disc.Maybe it's because I'm older and wiser now, but looking back on the music of Biafra and the DK's made me wonder how more people could not have accepted them as anything but a loud party band, with a penchant for smarter songwriting than they were given proper credit for. This DVD even opens with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer:"Caution: The following material contains violent imagery taken from actual every day life. This program could be offensive to those individuals who prefer not to deal with reality."You know who you are.Track List:California Uber AllesMabuhay GardensSan Francisco 1979Kill The Poor330 Grove StreetSan Francisco, 1979Drug MeMabuhay GardensSan Francisco 1979The Man With The DogsMabuhay GardensSan Francisco 1980InsightMabuhay GardensSan Francisco 1980Let's Lynch The LandlordMabuhay GardensSan Francisco 1980Bleed For MeTarget StudiosSan Francisco 1981Holiday In CambodiaTarget StudiosSan Francisco 1981Viva Las VegasSproul PlazaBerkeley 1978
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Music Video Distributors has released the DK's with a 1.33:1 full-frame transfer, from footage here that was captured on sometimes shaky videotape. Consisting of a number of different performances, the image quality varies greatly. Some are in washed out color, some are in black & white. The two songs recorded at Target Studios have the most natural colors, especially in contrast to the grainy Mabuhay Gardens footage.In hindsight, the rough image quality is directly related to the raw intensity the band conveyed, and as a result fits the content ideally. If this was too slick and smooth, it would have gone against the band's whole persona.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Like the video transfer, the stereo mix is inconsistent and far from perfect. There is no real separation, and at times it is difficult to make out some of Biafra's lyrics. Holiday In Cambodia features the strongest transfer, with a clean mix making this easily the disc highpoint. From an audio enthusiast standpoint, the sound here is really bad.But that's not what the DK's are about. The audio is rough. Like the band. It works.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Extras Review: MVD hasn't loaded this disc with supplements, but what's included is informative and fun:Who's WhoThis bio section provides individual bios and discographies for each of the band members, as well as an overall history, all set to snippets of Kill The Poor.Sing Along With The DK'sSelect this option and you can have scrolling lyrics appear, karaoke style, so you can sing along with The Man With The Dogs (and all of the other songs) right at home. No stage diving in your living room, though.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThis is a far cry from the slick music video projects of today, yet it does manage to capture the chaotic energy of what was once one of the West Coast's leading punk bands. It's a shame that the audio quality isn't better on some of the tracks, but I guess that shouldn't be too surprising.This will unlikely build a new fanbase for the defunct DK's, but if you lived through that era and witnessed the band live, you will appreciate this brief video snapshot. I'm going to have to dust off my copy of Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. I have an urge to hear Stealing People's Mail now.
Rich Rosell 2002-03-05