Witch Trials

The Witch Trials [EP]

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AllMusic Review by

Dead Kennedys mouthpiece Jello Biafra chose an unusual diversion from his main band's agitprop doings with this determinedly anonymous EP (recorded in Britain and initially released in France). The sole credit goes to engineer (and former latter-era Mott the Hoople keyboardist) Morgan Fisher, while the co-conspirators' identities remain a mystery. This may be deliberate, because Biafra's theatrical style is unmistakable. So are his lyrics, although he's not just affecting some shock horror pose to scare your mom; bigger game is afoot here. Jangling, repetitive synthesizers and guitars become the building blocks for scabrous broadsides against the faceless powers that be: "Trapped in the Playground" is a graphic sketch of environmental poisoning run amok from the viewpoint of the scarred survivors ("The elephant man poses nude in our centerfold"). "Meat Beat" is an equally grim look at sexual assault from the perpetrator's standpoint -- a well-established device for Biafra to slip into the mindsets of the people that he condemns. "Humanoids From the Deep" is the standout, with Biafra gleefully reeling off the penalties of genetic manipulation, which yield the monstrous mutations referenced in the title -- nearly 20 years before such topics became common daily newspaper fodder. The sparseness and throbbing synthesizers only add to the effect. "The Taser" is the ultimate horror story, where a smug cop matter-of-factly demonstrates an electric shock device's effects on hapless, unwilling suspects. Like many of Biafra's solo ventures, Witch Trials is an acquired taste; the appreciation depends on if you enjoy a dash of subversive disturbance in your artistic diet. Still, Biafra proves every bit as clever as in his parent band -- and, for fans of his hot-wired, razor-edge wordplay, the results don't get any better than this effort.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
6:56
2
6:18
3
4:01
4
3:36
blue highlight denotes track pick