WHEN THE ANTI-ROCK offensive spawned by Tipper Gore made the leap from propaganda to prosecution, the Dead Kennedys were an inspired choice. From their in-your-face name to their hectoring musical style, the D.K.s were punk at its most shrill and least defensible (also, the determinedly independent band had no major record label to back it up).
As demonstrated by "Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death," a recent compilation by the now-defunct San Francisco quartet, the D.K.s specialized in such rusty-edged, provocative songs as "California Uber Alles" and "Holiday in Cambodia." Lead singer Jello Biafra's corrosive satire was as ham-fisted as guitarist East Bay Ray's jackhammer riffs.
Dragged into court when an L.A. prosecutor deemed obscene a poster included with the band's "Frankenchrist" album, Biafra beat the rap -- the case was dismissed because of a hung jury -- but not his legal bills. Like other notorious newsmakers, he hit the lecture circuit to raise both money and consciousness.
His rambling, outraged spiels are documented by "No More Cocoons," a new double-album of Biafran raps recorded over the last year at colleges and concert halls. As such titles as "Why I'm Glad the Space Shuttle Blew Up" suggest, he still enjoys getting a reaction. Biafra is sincere and passionate, but not especially witty or articulate. Even fans who are receptive to his messages -- America is corrupt, Reagan a fool, Tipper Gore a threat to free speech -- will probably find tiresome 100 minutes of this latter-day Yippie's ranting. "Holiday in Cambodia" is hard to take, too, but at least it's only three minutes and 43 seconds long. THE DEAD KENNEDYS --
"Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death" (Alternative Tentacles VIRUS 57).
JELLO BIAFRA --
"No More Cocoons" (Alternative Tentacles VIRUS 59). Biafra will speak (not play music) Sunday at the 9:30 club.