While they were one of the earliest, most popular and most influential of the American hardcore bands, their music was highly unique in the realm of punk rock in general, bearing traces of surf music, spaghetti western, psychedelic rock, garage rock and rockabilly. Jello Biafra's biting lyrics tackled the sociopolitical concerns of the Reagan era with a distinct sense of morbid humor and satire, following in the footsteps of such earlier rock satirists as Frank Zappa and non-musical countercultural figures like Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Bruce.
In the mid-1980s, the band was embroiled in an obscenity trial in the United States over the artwork of their album Frankenchrist, which included the explicit titular subject of H. R. Giger's Penis Landscape.
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