Album Review: Jello Biafra, ‘A Walk on Jindal’s Splinters’
Jello Biafra is a man full of surprises. Since the early days of Dead Kennedys, who took shape some 37 years ago(!), Biafra has always led the pack with a sharp wit and a tongue to match.
Offspring of the punk movement of the mid-'70s, Dead Kennedys were never afraid to reach into areas of surf, garage, rockabilly and art-damaged-experimentation along the way. Since Biafra's departure in the mid-'80s, he has teamed up with everyone from Ministry and the Melvins to Mojo Nixon and Ice T.
All that, however, couldn't have prepared us for this rocking new album of vintage tunes.
Recorded live during the New Orleans Jazzfest in 2011, A Walk On Jindal's Splinters is a full on, no frills, rock and roll album. The back story on the recording is that on this particular evening, Biafra was dared by his friends in the band to join them onstage. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Biafra hopped on the stage to rip through a set of classic soul, rhythm and blues and pop hits, mostly from the '50s and '60s for what turned out to be an evening of unforgettable rock and roll.
Delving into the classic New Orleans songbook, Biafra and his band (The New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars) kick out the jams here on 11 choice nuggets that range from the very well known -- "House of the Rising Sun" -- to the slightly more obscure, like their brilliant take on Alex Chilton's "Bangkok."
If you are wondering how the punk rock icon handles the job of such material, one spin of "Land of 1000 Dances" will shut down your hesitations. The band, featuring members of Dash Rip Rock, Cowboy Mouth, Corrosion of Conformity and the Mojo Nixon Band, are absolutely on fire throughout. This is a genuine love letter to the original raw spirit of rock and roll that informed the language from garage bands through the original punk era, and on to any bands trading in such currency today.
Biafra sounds right at home on the material, no surprise really since he is somewhat of a music historian to begin with. The recording, released on Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, is presented warts and all; a polished, overly rehearsed affair this is not.
There is no great insight or grand statement at play here. No sweeping gestures of innovation or exploration, but rather a ramshackle evening of unadulterated rock and roll, preserved for all to hear. It's evenings like this one that make the ride we are all on so much better. Crank this sucker up loud and, in the words of Chuck Berry, let it rock!