Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980), 8/10

Almost certainly the best starting place for hardcore punk. Right off the bat in the form of the poetic album cover depicting burning police cars, Biafra has a way of grabbing your attention, musically either with his hyper-satirical lyrics or his eccentric delivery. I certainly understand why anyone would think of Dead Kennedys as the quintessential American punk band considering their earth-shaking debut or their outstanding follow up in Plastic Surgery Disasters. It's astonishing that their unique, identifiable sound and punchy ethos is already completely present here resulting in what is undeniably a punk classic. There are so many standalone tracks that could carry the weight of the album that when they're presented as a package it appropriately becomes an exercise in hardcore brutality. There are tracks that are carried primarily by Biafra’s vocals such as “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” or “Ill in the Head” but there are songs that drive primarily from the brutally blistering or technically impressive performances from the band like “Forward to Death”, “When Ya Get Drafted” or “I Kill Children”. Even more common is that they share a beautifully balanced combination of the two; these produce the record’s most impressive tracks like “Drug Me”, “Chemical Warfare” or “Holiday in Cambodia” that overflow with distressing lyrics and wonderfully caustic, distorted sounds from the band. Other than perhaps “Funland at the Beach” that slows the momentum, although only four about two minutes, there is not a more consistently outstanding punk record in existence. Of course it would be remise not to mention the legendary “California Über Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”, and perhaps even the hilarious and supremely entertaining Elvis reimagining of “Viva Las Vegas”, and their place in expanding the possibilities of punk for future groups. The formula’s effect would fade in the coming years, but the album’s divisive quality perplexes, as Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables remains an unshakeable blueprint for great hardcore punk and even more generally punk rock.