Jello Biafra

High Priest of Harmful Matter: Tales From the Trial

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High Priest of Harmful Matter is Jello Biafra's spoken-word attempt to explain what exactly happened during his 1986 trial for obscenity in connection with the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist. The trial was a watershed, and a report from the person most implicated promises to be fascinating. Unfortunately, Biafra spends fully half of High Priest attempting to put his trial into context by reiterating the trials that music and musicians have faced from authorities over the years, starting with Allan Freed and continuing through the PMRC hearings. All of that may be of value to listeners who were uninformed, but to most reasonably aware music fans, spending nearly an hour on material that's either widely available elsewhere or is full of provocative allegations (and Biafra provides no source for anything he says during this section) is tedious and pointless. A simple couple of concisely worded paragraphs would have sufficed here. The second half, in which Biafra provides his personal experiences and insights from his arrest and trial, is much more absorbing (and even funny at times, something sorely lacking in the humorless first half), but by that point a listener would be forgiven for simply tuning out much of Biafra's message. (It's also worth noting that Biafra's voice, which can seem nasal and smug at times, is a real love-it-or-hate-it instrument that will alienate some listeners from the get-go.) Had Biafra stuck to relating all of his trial stories and stories about what professional effects he suffered in its aftermath (something he does not discuss at all), High Priest would be a valuable document. As it stands, it's a flawed, frustrating mishmash.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 11:46
2 44:06

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 43:24
blue highlight denotes track pick