The Dead Kennedys were one of the most important, potent and controversial punk bands to emerge in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. A virulent mix of hardcore punk and politically charged lyrics, the Dead Kennedys were never halfway about any issue, making firm statements about capitalism, conservatism and authority. Though the latter part of their career became entangled in legal issues and had group members suing each other for ownership of the band’s name and music, the Dead Kennedys importance has never come into question. Their outspoken beliefs and passionate attitude became a template that conscious punk bands would follow.
In 1981, the band headed to Subterranean Studios in San Francisco to record the follow-up to their legendary debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Unfortunately, the tapes from the sessions soon began to peel and deteriorate soon after they had finished recording, forcing the group to re-record the very same songs a few months later at a different studio. The songs from the second session would be released as EP titled In God We Trust, Inc., and would include such seminal tunes as “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, “Moral Majority” and “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now”, which is an interesting reworking of the legendary Dead Kennedys’ song “California Uber Alles.”
In God We Trust Inc. - The Lost Tapes is an audiovisual document of the Dead Kennedys’ first recording session at Subterranean Studios. The Dead Kennedys were certainly not known for their complex production techniques, so there are no drastic reworkings of songs discovered here. The DVD is separated into two sections. The studio portion of the disc is a surprisingly crisp video of the band recording all the songs for the EP at their first session. Simply shot, the video follows the band as they record each song live off the floor. No member is given more attention than the other and the studio portion is a somewhat dry, though interesting look at the Dead Kennedys putting their songs tape. The second portion of the DVD contains “alternate” versions of all the songs. A misleading label at best, the “alternate” takes are really live versions of each song pulled from various concerts. For those who never had a chance to see the Dead Kennedys live, this footage is definitely a bonus, unfortunately, director Eric Goodfield, instead of letting the video speak for itself, felt the need to add amateur quick-cuts and overlapping images, creating a nauseating blur. The Dead Kennedys had energy to spare, but in Goodfield’s attempt to match his editing with the Dead Kennedys vitriol ultimately strips the video of its raw power.
In God We Trust Inc. - The Lost Tapes, is a curiosity at best. Diehard Dead Kennedys fans will no doubt be pleased to be treated to a video of the band recording in the studio as well as additional concert footage. However, to the casual fan, the DVD is not worth investigating. The studio footage is, frankly, boring and painfully repetitive. The live footage, which should really be a treat, is manhandled by the director. In trying to energize the video with sloppy editing, Goodfield makes an insulting statement about the attention spans of punk rock fans.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article