Watching contemporary "punk" bands such as Blink-182 is like witnessing the evisceration of a movement -- its essence gutted and reduced to a few standard moves, no different from watching an overripe Mick Jagger, tongue over crusty lips, trafficking teenage rebellion when the closest he comes to it these days is the age of the women he dates. As one contemplates the rotting corpse of punk rock, perhaps while a Ramones song scores a car commercial in the background, we are presented with the nostalgia tour of the DK Kennedys, or three-quarters of the original lineup of the Dead Kennedys, minus their bullhorned mouthpiece, Jello Biafra.
Punk music was originally as much about social commentary on the staid, suburban landscape with its stale conformity as it was rebellion against the bland sound of commercial music. And from the Dead Kennedys name to the group's lyrics and album art, the band was easily the most revolutionary in the '80s underground and, by virtue of its incisive critique, one of the most popular. While there's no denying the redoubtable rhythm section or East Bay Ray's '50s surf/spy-theme guitar lines, there is also little doubt that the band's legend and legacy are due more to songs such as "Trust Your Mechanic," "Holiday in Cambodia," and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off."
But Biafra, with a devotion to (ideological) purity more encompassing than that of General Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, has never sought to license the band's music for commercials or to tour to capitalize on its lasting appeal, finding the idea of nostalgia personally distasteful. But with a court decision ceding control of the music to a band majority as opposed to the songwriter, the remaining members have reissued the catalogue and re-formed for a supporting tour. Who will sing this incendiary rhetoric? None other than Brandon Cruz, former leader of the punk band Dr. Know, but likely more familiar as Eddie Corbett, the little kid from The Courtship of Eddie's Father. One can almost hear the vein in Jello's head bursting.
The DK Kennedys
Bash on Ash in Tempe
Scheduled to perform on Friday, January 25, with Total Chaos, and Glass Heroes. Showtime is 8 p.m., and the show is all-ages.
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