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 takes his anti-punditry 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.
Thankfully, Biafra limits his latest spoken-word installment, The Big Ka-Boom, Part One, to 34 minutes. It's a regular Sermonette on the Mount compared to projects past. While analyzing the world's ever-increasing tensions, Biafra offers solutions both satirical and serious. "I get equally frightened -- even terrorized -- when President Bush says things like 'You're either with us or the terrorists,'" he says. In this concise diatribe, the aging punker condemns the administration's "orgy of violence" as something designed "to make arms manufacturers rich till kingdom come."
After alluding to undercover heroin-running between the CIA and Northern Alliance (and citing reports from the Manchester Guardian to back up his claims), Biafra calls for lifting the sanctions against Iraq and pulling American troops out of Saudi Arabia. "Let's not only end our dependence on foreign oil, but do as much as humanly possible to end our dependence on oil altogether," he says.
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. Quoting filmmaker Michael Moore, he asks, "Will we ever get to the point that we realize we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn't living in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?'"
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." Currently on a spoken-word tour that brings him to the 1300 Gallery, Biafra's one-man rant will continue as sadly unfinished as the war that it protests.
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