Become the Media -- Spoken Word Album #6 (Alternative Tentacles)
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Jan. 19, 2001
Become the Media -- Spoken Word Album #6
(Alternative Tentacles) If you ever wonder how the average rock star would do as an orator, tune in to an awards show and watch how most stumble over the most rudimentary quips even with the aid of a teleprompter. Former Dead Kennedys frontman-cum-raconteur Jello Biafra is way better than most. In bringing the pungent hilarity of his lyrics to the spoken word arena, Biafra has been able to illuminate the misdeeds of the American corporate machine without sounding like some annoyingly sanctimonious campus radical. Unfortunately, much of the 3-CD marathon Become the Media finds Biafra shilling for various leftist causes rather than performing. Stump-speeches for Ralph Nader have their place, and that place is on a stump, not on what purports to be a spoken-word LP. While much of Biafra's platform (e.g., establishing a maximum wage, forcing cops to run for election in the neighborhoods they patrol) is radical enough to be provocative in and of itself, his lectures on the WTO and genetically modified foods are dry and tedious, not to mention poorly recorded and edited. It would've been nice to hear more pieces like "Hellburbia," Biafra's comedic-yet-sensible rant on school shootings. Though he comes to "dissect teenage rampage superstars, not praise them," Biafra's first word on the shooters is the unspoken thought of every current and former pubescent outcast: "This could've been me." Documenting the pell-mell national search for culprits and recrimination ("He was a good boy 'til he started listenin' to that Twopack Shaker!"), Biafra finds a pattern in which pundits and officials use school shootings as an excuse for a pharmaceutically enhanced, come-to-Jesus-style witch hunt on nonconformity. He wishes he could explain to those who snapped that living long enough to piss on the grave of a troubled adolescence is the best revenge. But then we're back to campus political oratory as usual -- something best left to the Noam Chomskys of the world, not the leftist rockers who read them.