Kill the Poor is the opening track on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980), the first album released by the highly influential punk rock/hardcore band, (the) Dead Kennedys.
The song reflects the strong questioning at the time of the invention of the neutron bomb, a weapon that kills living things but leaves buildings and material possessions intact. Band frontman Jello Biafra delivers the opening lyrics over drumrolls and epic, major chords from distorted guitars -- in fact, the tone seems reminiscent of a rock opera, one of many features of the arrangement that sets its bitter, ironic tone:
Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Surely, the persona reasons, such a weapon would serve far less purpose in war than it would on our own territory. The bomb "gets things done" by eliminating the social ills brought on by the existence of this class in one fell swoop. Indeed, a quick, clean victory for the rich! The ironic message is delivered with increasing intensity, excitement, and grittiness in tone, as he becomes seemingly more and more enamored with the idea. A final chord rumbles before the drummer begins to mark time and roll quickly into up-tempo punk rock. Biafra begins to catalog the, ahem, thrilling ramifications:
The sun shines on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
The chorus is a furious, repetitive chant with loud, unsophisticated guitar and bass, fitting of the era's punk aesthetic. The musicologist who introduced me to this song reminds me that the chorus' catchiness has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion -- he's found himself unwittingly singing "Kill-kill-kill-kill kill the poor!" over and over again in subway stations or crowded streets because the tune is so infectious and deceptively upbeat. This tone, of course, is a bit of black humor and part of the irony of the song -- given enough exposure, the anthem can drive perfectly reasonable people into a fit of poor-killing hysteria. After a second verse and a distorted guitar solo, Biafra gives the final ironic image:
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night
The piece concludes after another chorus and a more unsettling minor progression -- ending an opening statement representative of the band's work yet to come.