The Guantanamo School of Medicine began as Jello's back up band in celebration of his 50th year. Afterwards they became a new project and Jello's first time with a band that had no musical legacy outside of the pairing. Having previously worked with various other bands to provide the musical backdrop to his post-DKs political rantings, this was the first time that it would be wholly Jello. Everything the band has done has been good but this is their first essential release.
The Audacity of Hype had some great songs and it was great to hear Jello singing again. However, the songs were a bit awkward, which I can only put down to the political timing of its release. Obama-fever had stormed the US but it was too early to really see what he was going to do or where the nation was going to go. This left Jello singing posthumously (if only literally!) about George Bush Jr as well as pulling some songs out of his earlier work as part of the No WTO Combo (Electronic Plantation and New Feudalism). At 9 years old, regardless of the quality of the songs, the could hardly be called of the zeitgeist. This was followed by an EP, Enhanced Methods of Questioning. Again, a good release but the songs felt, to me, a little bloated, in spite their reasonable length. In fact, in almost complete contradiction of myself, the highlight of the EP was the bonus near-20 minute jam of a Deviants cover (apparently, never checked out the original) while the rest struggled to grab me. What's more, the politics, while interesting, had seemed to localise itself somewhat. Their was fire in Jello's belly, but the flames had burned more fiercely in the past and had been of a wider scope.
Now, such an accusation I cannot direct towards this album. Having had time to see what Obama's hope and change looks like, Jello's ready to tell us exactly what he thinks of it. All the material here is new (bar one track) and it is the angriest he has been since... I'm not sure when. Sometimes funny, sometimes sarcastic but always righteous. It's satisfying. The album explodes into action from the off with The Brown Lip Stick Parade - the lobbying professionals and those lobbied are torn a new one. The musical accompaniment is also a total revival and this makes it the most exciting thing to listen to in a long time. The music is varied, taking in many of the diverse styles Jello has played with before and the band sound fantastic. There is a gleeful-venom in Jello as he shouts at the 1% ('too big to fail sure don't mean too rich to kill' on Werewolves of Wall St) and the cultish obsession and self-obsession of celebrities ('instead of drugs and rehab, why don't you just die?!' on Hollywood Goof-Disease). Musically, the album is punky but inevitably more than punk and is a good combination of the Guantanamo School's stylings so far. From the non-stop raging of Road Rage to the casual mickey-taking of Crapture, the music is as enjoyable as the lyrical contribution.
Points of criticism, none. However, there are points to reflect on. Burgers of Wrath is a resurrection from the Mojo Nixon join up and is fairly faithful to the original. It's nicely done and I guess Jello's trying to show how it is relevant once again, indeed now more than ever. Still, it does seem a bit of a strange one to include. Also, Mid East Peace Process probably raises more questions than anything else. It almost avoids political commentary and ends with an impassioned plea for peace. There is some controversy regarding Israel and Palestine with Jello (when isn't controversy related to that region?) after his intention to play a show in Israel, in contradiction to the boycott. This led to internet uproars and then the band deciding they were unhappy to play (I don't think this caused any ill will with in the band and I am not suggesting that but, as far as I am aware, Jello wanted those shows to go ahead). Considering this, it is a commendable move to confront such a complex issue but the conclusion is wholly unclear.
Still, you don't have to agree with every action of Biafra to enjoy his music, appreciate his sentiment and get swept up in his passion. He has been indefatigable since the demise of the Dead Kennedys, constantly striving people to act either through his music or spoken word. The music here is up with the best of his works and the lyrics also. That alone means that this is likely to be my album of the year. This should also make it a must listen for others, especially those that have fallen off the Jello radar and those that have been underwhelmed so far with the GSoM. Pick up the vinyl (preferably from the AT site or your independent music shop) and you get all the bonus tracks that are on the CD in the free download as well as a lovely vinyl and awesome lyrics sheet. The package is excellent. I cannot recommend this any more highly.
I liked the last album but this/ This is an absolute work of genius! Jellos lyrics have never been sharper, his voice has never sounded better and the band provide the perfect backdrop for both. This is Jello's first concept album since Frankenchrist and it's right up there alongside it. I know there will be long time DK fans (like myself) who will seriously doubt that claim. Well I've listened to this for a few days now and I'm sticking to it, this really is that good. Stop reading. Buy it and support JB and AT.