The album is an example of the progressive, psychedelic side of Dead Kennedys' musical personality. The spaghetti western soundtrack influence is also noticeable in the horn parts and in East Bay Ray's atmospheric guitar work. Frankenchrist is noted for its relative lack of traditionally 'hardcore' material. Most of the songs are slower and longer than the majority of other Dead Kennedys songs. "M.T.V. − Get off the Air" is notable for its pointed slam of the music establishment and "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" for its exegesis of Biafra's political philosophies.
The album was a subject of controversy because of a poster inserted in the original record sleeve. The poster, H. R. Giger's Landscape #XX, or Penis Landscape, was a painting depicting rows of penises and vulvae. The band's vocalist was brought to trial for distributing harmful matter to minors, and though the case did not result in a conviction, Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles was driven almost to bankruptcy.
Only through the support of fans was the label able to stay alive. Biafra gained attention as a champion of free speech, and was subsequently one of the most active opponents of the Parents Music Resource Center.
Frankenchrist's front cover itself depicts a Shriners parade, featuring Shriners members driving miniature cars, wearing their distinctive red fez hats. The four Shriners members pictured in the photograph sued Dead Kennedys in 1986. The image was originally photographed and published by Newsweek in the 1970s, a decade before the Frankenchrist usage by Dead Kennedys and Alternative Tentacles in 1985.