Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (2022 Mix)
There probably aren’t many records better suited to expose the terror of these modern times than Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Mixing ironic humor and satire with nihilistic fervor and Jello Biafra’s almost inhumanly unhinged vocal tremors, Dead Kennedys’ debut full-length is the perfect reaction to both the state of the USA and the world in 2022. Indeed, if the slogan “No war but class war” were an album, it would be this one.
That it was actually released back in 1980 but remains as relevant—if not more so—today should terrify and sadden everyone. The album was written just before the economic and political terrorism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher took hold, but it rages with a precise prescience about what their fiscal policies would entail for the working and middle classes. It’s not just the socioeconomic implications that remain true, however, especially with the election of Giorgia Meloni in Italy, and the shocking rise of fascism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and misogyny in most other parts of the world.
What that means is that Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables remains as necessarily pungent, shocking, and essential as it ever was. Sure, “California Über Alles” was about (and sung satirically from the point of view of) Jerry Brown, the Democratic governor of California at the time, but he also reassumed that position between 2011 and 2019. Besides the fact that most Republicans and Democrats are interchangeable stooges for the corporations they represent, if that itself isn’t a shocking indictment of the scam that is the American two-party system, of how nothing fundamentally changes, then nothing is. That song exposed that perfectly at the time, and still does today. Similarly, “Kill the Poor,” “When Ya Get Drafted,” “Let’s Lynch the Landlord,” “Chemical Warfare,” “I Kill Children,” and “Holiday in Cambodia” are all caustic reactions to an American imperialist system propelled by the bedfellows of capitalism and white supremacy—and which remains in full force today, even as the empire crumbles.
To that extent, this album stands as both an important historical document and a necessary, contemporary reflection of the world today. Does it matter that Jello Biafra claims this reissue was done without his knowledge and that he’s expressed his visceral disapproval of this remix, dubbed The 2022 Mix, by engineer Chris Lord-Alge? Ultimately, no. This is a vital, devastating condemnation of the prison-, military-, and medical-industrial complexes upon which the very cogs of the American political machine turn, crushing every ounce of humanity in the process in favor of a decent profit. It needs to be stopped, overhauled, overthrown, burned to the ground. Whether you listen to this new version or the original, petty squabbles shouldn’t obscure the importance of that message.