MTV Get Off The Air, The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys – “M.T.V. – Get off the Air”

The Dead Kennedys multi-sectioned odyssey through punk’s signature social and cultural criticism provides a masterclass in how the counter-culture of the 1980s best tore through its victims.

Beginning with an upbeat twisted pop parody, including its satin baseball jacket clad Video DJ narrator promising to ‘destroy what’s left of your imagination’, before transitioning into a furious direct assault in break-neck hardcore style, balancing the sarcastic defamation and outright aggression that 80s hardcore thrived on.

At just over three and a half minutes in length, MTV is a longer song from amongst The Kennedys discography and peers, but not for the album it is from, 1985’s Frankenchrist, reflecting the state of punk in the mid-eighties once it had found its feet and worn-out the 55 second song length from the turn of the previous decade

Not content simply an attack on MTV itself, The Kennedys seamlessly shift from a criticism of MTV onto corporate music itself, taking a swipe at 50s entertainer Pat Boone, ‘graph-paper brained’ music industry execs and ‘bands who always smile’.

Viewing music history through the lens of this song, it is shocking to see that, regardless of the sprawling array of criticisms of MTV and the wider music industry that The Dead Kennedys manage to compress into three minutes that are as relevant today as they were during the hardcore punk era, and despite doing their best to argue their cause, MTV is still on air.

Written by Dylan van der Riet.

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