Jello Biafra & The Melvins - _Sieg Howdy!_
(Alternative Tentacles, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (7 out of 10)
"We all believe what we want to believe.
Don't just question authority
Don't forget to question me
...Start your own fire"

Croons Siddhartha Biafra aided by equally infamous cohorts Crover, Rutmanis and Osborne in this addendum to "Never Breathe What You Can't See". A year later and we find the same effort to approximate the Dead Kennedys' toxic beach atmosphere, accomplished with deft control coupled with the hardcore muezzin's calls and now joined with some exceptionally florid paintings by Camille Rose Garcia, given a new layer of animation when paired with the Melvin's twisted hand.

How much will this appeal to you if you already own their prior release? Ask yourself if you reeeaaally liked it, because at least four of those earlier tracks resurface here, out of ten, in "extended" form or in remix (by Dalek, Dale Crover and Al Jourgensen respectively, with the Ministry frontman giving voice to the background vocals on "Enchanted Thoughtfist" that had always been running through the mind). There's some filler in between, but all in all it still serves as a competent work of heavy-punk -- all the better if you're unacquainted -- that brings both their iconic statures into focus.

When Biafra relates that as a youth his "literary background's mostly songs and cartoons", he's speaking to and of the generations of disenchanted suburbanites who found an introduction to activism through hardcore, their anger partly directed toward state corruption masked by our material "quality of life". Apologia still in constant use and in earlier days answered with more scathing and direct prose than here. What the Dead Kennedys offered wasn't wisdom, but contemplation on just how rigged and commoditized American life was -- is.

With some expected languor by comparison, Biafra's rants remain mocking and not necessarily more judicious. The disc's main clashes with political opprobrium are found in "The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism", displaying JB's typical routine of casting government pawns as sexually unhinged lap-dogs. His target for 2005: airport security, followed some time after by a live rendition of "Kalifornia_Uber Alles" with some genuinely funny digs at Gov. Schwarzenegger.

It's when _Sieg Howdy_ doesn't target so much as it lends advice or a somber reflection: "What will their kids be like?" -- an emotional but valid critique when exploring the consequences of what that means; or when diagramming social corrosion, drug abuse and lax parenting ("A Lesson in What Not to Become") that the album succeeds with a more affecting and natural flow. It's hardly novel, since Biafra has never kept himself strictly within the political margin, though his reputation precedes him -- and how often the lines blur. But coupled with his humor, the latter approaches a refreshing turn from the unending dissensus in the form of sniping, not necessarily communication, so ubiquitous in the culture.

The opening track, however, stands as the best argument for _Sieg Howdy_'s existence: a cover of Alice Cooper's tongue-in-cheek piebald masterwork, "Halo of Flies", here rendered into the most perfect synthesis of each player's strengths. Crover in particular is fucking tectonic aside his partners' erratic rock snarl, gritty string tugging and planetary bass. Eight minutes in and it's Quite Easily Done.


(article published 29/9/2005)

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