The “Yes we can” sentiments of the 2008 election are being dragged screaming back into the pit of partisan politics, unemployment has reached double digits, and a simple illness can potentially bankrupt the average American. As the first decade of the 21st century begins to look frighteningly like the ’80s, it would seem apropos that gadfly Jello Biafra would make a triumphant return to music. The caustic catharsis offered by his take on punk would seem to be a balm to those afflicted by much the same malaise that Biafra chronicled with the Dead Kennedys.
Instead, Biafra — backed by his new band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine — inexplicably offers criticisms of everything from the Bush Administration to NAFTA. Though the name and cover for The Audacity of Hype provoke a visceral response, they are about the only commentary that Biafra offers on the current state of the union. Otherwise, he’s simply grinding old axes in much the same manner he’s been doing for many years. The real hype here is Biafra himself, who should know that punk plays poorly as an oldies act.
Even with the dearth of righteous anger usually expected from Biafra, The Audacity of Hype is well-constructed musically. Biafra’s band consistently lays down blistering lines that give ample backing to the vitriol of his lyrics. Coming with a two-guitar attack provides a depth of sound that Biafra has rarely had during his career, but the higher quality musicianship really only draws attention to the lack of lyrical bite on the album. Jello Biafra has long ago cemented his status as a legend in the punk genre, but The Audacity of Hype finds him firing over his shoulder instead of taking aim at the problems that are truly plaguing society.