Jello Biafra’s scathing brand of political commentary won’t pass for comfort food in troubled times: Gooey, patriotic pabulum is best left to star-spangled yokels like Lee Greenwood or Alan Jackson. But the guy does take his antipunditry as seriously as any free-speech proponent out there. He also has a knack for turning his personal unease into long-winded morality tales with meandering punch lines. One need look no further than 1994’s Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police, Biafra’s three-disc marathon of inconsistent outrage, to find a well-meaning agent of social change turned glib egomaniac. Yawnarooney.
Thankfully, Biafra limits his seventh overall spoken-word installment, The Big Ka-Boom, Part One, to 34 minutes. It’s a regular sermonette on the mount compared to projects past. Preaching to the liberal choir at the University of Wisconsin one month after the attacks of September 11, Biafra offers solutions both satirical and serious while analyzing the world’s ever-increasing tensions. “I get equally frightened — even terrorized — when President Bush says things like ‘You’re either with us or the terrorists,’ ” he says. He skewers the antiterrorism legislation of “Bible-thumping white supremacist” John Ashcroft for creating “a permanent state of emergency at home.”
Biafra also questions the sanity of giving blind loyalty and a blank check to the “cowboy faction” of the Bush administration, instead of addressing the economic root causes of terrorism in the first place.
Biafra is one of the few visible artists in any medium who have braved the precarious position of speaking out against the effort to eradicate “evildoers.” With sequels all but promised in The Big Ka-Boom, Part One‘s title, expect more speeches on the heels of this one. Biafra’s one-man rant will continue as sadly unfinished as the war that it protests.