Compilations are not my favorite kind of album. Usually I think of them as being for idiots who want to impress people by being able to rattle off an opinion on a band without having to buy more than one album or listen to any song that wasn't a hit or released on a single. But the Dead Kennedys' Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death is an exception. And what an exceptional album it is.
This is a long record. Seventeen tracks, but then again it is a compilation. It begins with "Police Truck", which takes a comical shot at corrupt police officers. While mildly offensive to some (myself not included), it is a well-written and extremely funny song. Definitely one of the best on the album. 4.5/5
Next we have the pretty self-explanatory "Too Drunk To F**k". It is as shallow as the title. The entire song is about being too drunk to f**k. No hidden meaning here. It's entertaining and purposefully lacks class. The song is full of typical Dead Kennedys humor but isn't as good as some of the other tracks. 3.5/5
On to track 3, for the legendary California Uber alles. One of the biggest Dead Kennedys songs of all time, it packs a powerful punch with it's well-crafted structure and dynamite delivery. However, after listening to it too much it becomes boring. It's a humorous, conceptual song about what would happen if Jerry Brown were to become president. This track is a breed apart from the low-fi minimalist songs on Bedtime For Democracy. 4/5
Track 4 is titled "The Man With the Dogs. It's a creepy story about a stalker. I did not enjoy this song very much but it is highly praised in some circles. The music is very static-y and distorted. By all means it is not a catchy song. But you know, some people can appreciate that. 2.5/5
"Insight", track 5, is a step up. It follows the same musical pattern as the previous song but the lyrics are far superior. It's a little corny but the basic plotline is some kid who is disgusted with his classmates growing up and turning into young conservatives. It is sung from the point of view of the classmates hence lines such as (he laughs at us/ and we just beat him up/). Not their best work but decent. 3.5/5
Then the record moves on to "Life Sentence" which is practically the same song as "Insight" in the plot and musical construction but the lyrics are different. It's about a delinquent who is mad at his best friend because he is settling down and conforming to the rules of society. It's a sort of boring song and is really just a recycled formula from "Insight". 3/5
"A Child and His Lawnmower" hold the track 7 spot. Itís remarkably simple but well done. It's a basic hardcore tune with barely intelligible lyrics. In fact the lyrics are not included in the lyric booklet. From what I could make out the song is about a farmer who shoots a young boy. He gets caught and goes to court were he receives a $60 fine as punishment. It utilizes the absurdist humor seen in many Dead Kennedys songs. On the whole, it is a very worthwhile listen. 4/5
Next, in the trend of songs such as California Uber alles, we have the very famous Holiday in Camobia. It follows the same trend as Uber alles, with a slightly competent lead guitar line and a catchy, sing-along chorus. The song is about a spoiled, rich kid who boasts about his knowledge of the ghetto. Lead Singer Jello Biafra's solution is to send to Cambodia to acquire some real understanding. While it drives home an important social message it is also filled with hilarious irony. 4.5/5
Track 9 is my favorite song on the record. It's a sort of cover of the Clash
version of "I Fought the Law". With different lyrics and slightly different music it just maybe the funniest song I have ever heard. Lines such as "I'm the new folk hero of the Klu Klux Klan/ my cop friends think that's fine/ you can get away with murder if you've got a badge/ I fought the law and I won", I like it better than the Clash version. The song protests social injustice in America, but instead of doing it the boring preachy way everyone's already heard a thousand times at those goddamn high school assemblies they found an exciting way to get the message across and we get to stay entertained while they do it. How convenient. 5/5
Saturday Night Holocaust is the title of the next track. It would be a good song if it weren't for the choppy verses and inconsistency. It tells the story of a racially segregated society, much like Nazi Germany, where everyone lives in fear of being sent to a concentration camp. It's alright, but not my favorite. 3/5
Track 11 is one of the best parts of the album. It's a live cut called "Pull My Strings". It's basically a song about corporate sellouts. Jello sings it from the point of view of an indie musician who is tired of upholding his principles and just wants to be rich. It's a hilarious tune and very well put together for a live piece. Biafra demonstrates real showmanship. 5/5
Not much can be said about the next song really being it's under 25 seconds long. It's a live version of "Short Songs". The lyrics are just the line "I like short songs" repeated over and over. It is amusing though. 4/5 (for charm)
This next song is the last real song on the album. The next four tracks are a combination of skits and bad songs that barely count. This song is called "Straight A's". It's the story of a kid who is pressured by everyone to do well in school and contemplates suicide. This would seem to be a hard topic to make funny but the band does a good job. 3.5/5
The last songs I will just lump together in one paragraph. While the skits are funny, none of them does anything to deserve a whole paragraph. Here they are in order. "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round", a skit about the world powers nuking all the punks, 3/5. "The Prey", a horrible song about mugging people, 2/5. "Night of the Living Rednecks", a hilarious skit about Jello's experiences with the people in Portland, Oregon, 4/5. Lastly, "Buzzbomb from Pasedena" a song/skit about and old lady who mows down passerby with her car. Kind of stupid, 2.5/5.
This is an album worth getting, no question. There are very few to no bad songs on it. However I recommend that you first buy some other Dead Kennedys records first because they have a very distinct style and you have to make sure that you like it first. I personally advise their first album, Fresh Fruit and Rotting Vegetables. If you find that you like them go for it.