Big Lizard In My Back Yard - Fever
A few of the melodies are kinda 'eh,' I suppose, but most of them ring true and alive thanks to a very creative bass player with a good brain for melody. The guitarist can write 'em catchy, too - I didn't mean to slouch him. I'm just saying, you know, listen to "Beach Song," "Swordfish," or "Serrated Edge" and then try to tell me you have any idea what the guitar line was. They're bass songs and nothing but! Enough about that, though. There are all sorts of catchy ones here, from the punky ("Tiny Town," "Nutrition," "Junkie") to the poppy ("Big Lizard," "Filet Of Sole," "Dean's Dream") to the pseudo-funky ("Right Wing Pigeons," "Lucky," "Swordfish"). And if you happen to dislike one of the songs, don't worry; it'll end soon. The vocals are young and stuffed-nosey with some very entertaining back-up vocals popping in every now and again to give you a sense of melodic urgency where before you just wondered why they gave this snot-nosed dork the mic in the first place. And yes, Rodney can't sing very well, but he's got a great voice for an entertainer. Even at this young age, he already sounds like he's willing to be your best friend, share his Cheetos with you, and tell you fart jokes all day.
And did you know this? This was actually a fairly popular college album back in the day, thanks to the bebop/hardcore classic "Bitchin' Camaro." It's not terribly funny, but you know college kids.
So what do I, Mark Prindle, find funny on this one? Lots of the back-up vocals (especially in "Plum Dumb" and "Laundromat Song") are good fun, and there are tons of good verses spread around the record, my faves being "Take off your clothes / Don't be lonely / The sign above says 'For Negroes Only'," "My best friend is a junkie / Sad but true / My best friend is a junkie / What's your best friend do?," and, of course, the rousing chorus, "I got nowhere to go / 'Cept to hang out on the street / My folks say I got no ambition.... / At least I give a shit / about the stuff I eat / Yeah, I care about nutrition!!!!" Funny? You? I don't know. I enjoy them. There are some other good lines, too. The only terribly embarrassing one is "Rastabilly," which just isn't funny at all. Not even catchy. Just dumb. Short, though! Bad paragraph. Too herky-jerky.
Basically, this is just an exceptionally enjoyable record. Not brilliant; just fun! They got better musically over the years, but there was no way that they could ever hope to recapture the raw youthful wise-assed energy that drove them to create this batch of foolish, mindless two-chord wonders way back in the long, hot autumn of '85.
I like your comment on the “stupid man’s They Might Be Giants” mostly because I am a stupid man who has just about everything the DMM and TMBG ever produced. I guess that makes me the smart ass stupid man who knows kick ass music! Both are great in my opinion. I only wish the Milkmen were still around to enjoy.
Eat Your Paisley! - Fever 1986.
On the sunny side of the street, their melodic sense is just as strong as on the last one - actually, probably MORE so, as displayed in absolutely beautiful little wonders like "Happy Is," "I Hear Your Name" (Rodney's favorite Milkmen song of all time, last time I checked), "Six Days," and "Take Me Apart." They're also trying new things like instrumentals, longer songs, and psychedelic drug tunes. And they're pretty good at all of 'em, really; that's what practicing'll do for you!
On the shadier, thug-infested side of the street, the humor is disturbingly unfunny. Airplane wrecks are funny? An earwig eating through somebody's brain is funny? Butthole Surfers rip-offs are funny? Bleah. There are also far too many attempts to be cutting edge and hip by making a joke out of death, almost as if none of the band members are old enough to quite understand the pain of real loss. The only thing that saves 'em is not trying to be funny on half of the songs (and, of course, the stellar melodies that are littered like fruit-flavored cigarette butts all over the record). Irritatingly, the two most popular songs on here are the worst; "Beach Party Vietnam" and "The Thing That Only Eats Hippies" are neither humorous nor catchy. They're just stupid and boring. No wonder the Dead Milkmen got such a bad reputation so quickly. Bleah. If you know what I mean by "bleah."
Too bad "I Hear Your Name" never caught on. It's simple, sad, obsessive.... Sigh.
Bucky Fellini - Fever 1987.
The rest is standard Milkmen fare, though perhaps an itsy bitsy spider more obsessed with the idea of culturelessness as bliss. The best example of this (aside from Rodney's cries of "NO ART! NO ART!" following a goofy little pretentious poem in the middle of "Blood Orgy Of The Atomic Fern") is "City Of Mud," in which Mr. Anonymous describes a town full of junk food-eating, non-working, TV-obsessed slobs before happily announcing "I've finally found a city full of people just like me!" Elsewhere, you got "Going To Graceland," which doesn't seem nearly as witty the second time you hear it (except for the line "Gonna see the bucket that Elvis Presley kicked," which never fails to crack up my ass), a funny Stones imitation called "Jellyfish Heaven," and a tender love ballad dedicated to "Nitro Burning Funny Cars," of all silly things.
As a whole, they try less for humor and more for simple light-hearted post-college cartoon rock, which they're much more adept at. Adept. Dumbass word. Bucky Fellini is a good'un - cute, catchy, fun.... Not a whole lot of emotion involved, but it's a damn good collection of melodies (except for the lightly funky "I Am The Walrus," which doesn't deserve its title) and, most importantly, it's very consistent. You don't have to wade through piles of medical waste to get to the good stuff. With the possible exception of aforementioned walrus ditty, it's all good stuff. B-52s? Dad?
Bucky Fellini is a clever play on Buckminster Fuller and that guy that they made a REALLY, REALLY pile of crappadoodledo horrible musical after.
That's all I have to say.
Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance To Anything) EP -
* Beelzebubba - Fever 1988. *
They're older, they're wiser (though still awfully silly), and they're even beginning to understand that death isn't just a cheap joke to be exploited in offensive (though catchy!) tripedreck like "Earwig" and "Air Crash Museum." - see "Life Is Shit" for the ultimate in disillusionment. Or is it just "disillusion?" Whatever it is, I gotta tell ya that I love this album. Unfortunately, near the end, there's a few that don't really stand out ("Ringo Buys A Rifle?" What's that all about?), but the rest is top-of-the-line entertainment for young strident fifteen-year-olds. Rodney's voice is getting gruffer by the day, and every time Joe Jack sings, he adopts more and more of a fake British accent, which I find awfully entertaining for the same reason that I find it irritating when that guy in Green Day does the same thing. You see, one of these two American bands is JOKING when they pretend to be "Limeys." Nothin' against "Limeys," of course. Some even believe that The Beatles were from England.
This record is funny, dumb, and catchy as a fish. Fast, too! They play real fast, undistorted pop rock. And yeah, all those guest musicians (fiddles, strings, accordion) were probably just a cynical attempt to cash in on the Camper Van Beethoven "college band" phenomenon, but when the product is this exceptional, who gives a crap about motivation? Probably some asshole, that's who.
Try as I might, I simply can't read that as an attempt to mock young punk rockers' lack of a proper grounding in rock-n-roll history (a commentary that would be significantly strengthened by the ironic fact that the "square" Beach Boys were in fact a major influence on the Ramones, without whom there would of course not be punk as we know it). Nor can I see it as some sort of twisted forboding reference to the anti-punk-rock of Wilson-Phillips.
No, I'm afraid the Milkmen are just stupid. And not in a good way.
(a week later)
Okay, okay, so Prindle schooled me on my Beach Boys history, and it turns out they actually COVERED "California Dreamin'" (and made a video for it) in 1986, not too long before "Punk Rock Girl" was recorded. Needless to say, this is not the version of "California Dreamin'" with which most people are familiar. So I still feel there is room for confusion, especially among younger folk, and am glad I got this topic out in the open.
Meanwhile, I'm grappling with the reality that the Beach Boys covering "California Dreamin'" is actually a far worse sin against rock-n-roll than the Dead Milkmen misattributing it to them could ever have been...
I wondered how a band that repeatedly insults surfers, their lifestyle and their music (Surfin' Cow, Beach Song, Beach Party Vietnam, Bleach Boys) can be held on high by them. In my opinion, the transgressions against the Beach Boys in Punk Rock Girl may be forgiven by us, the inlanders, if they can be forgiven and even exaulted by those who are not land-bound. Also, on the influence of the Beach Boys on punk rock and stupid punkers: this song is intended as a dig against the posers that frequented a poppy-punk record store called "Zipperhead." The girl in the song's title is one of the rich-kid pseudo-punks that the Milkmen would probably make fun of regularly, who do not care about the history of punk or what it stands for. For more information on these kids in modern society, go to a ska show and count how many Gwen Stefani's there are. Take this song as you would "Tiny Town:" from the perspective of someone who has no clue.
also some fool comments that he's irritated by the song "california dreaming" is wrongly attributed to the beach boys. That guy is a moron. that's what makes the song funny. funny ha-ha, I mean.
The DM were extremely funny, even though I didn't catch half of the lyrics. Even the titles of the songs were funny! They were also very cleaver with words. For example, "Sometimes I smell, just like bathroom, after grandma used it, and she's been eating fruit" (My many Smells). I can't think of any other way to express a stronger olfactive impression!!...
thank you Mark for your site, it has given me a lot of good memories.
The DM were extremely funny, even though I didn't catch half of the lyrics. Even the titles of the songs were funny! They were also very cleaver with words. For example, "Sometimes I smell, just like bathroom, after grandma used it, and she's been eating fruit" (My many Smells). I can't think of any other way to express a stronger olfactive impression!!... thank you Mark for your site, it has given me a lot of good memories.
Smokin' Banana Peels - Fever
Only ther Milkmen can put subtle parody in something called the Puking Song.
Metaphysical Graffiti- Enigma
However, the songs that sound like the band as we've grown to love 'em (i.e. every other song on the record) are just as cheer-inducing as you could expect from a band that lives to make you smile. "If You Love Somebody, Set Them On Fire?" "In Praise Of Sha Na Na?" "Methodist Coloring Book?" Learn 'em. Live 'em. Love 'em. Shave 'em and ram 'em up my ass! Joe Jack is gruffing up his voice to avoid the "sissy" stereotype he was earning with that faux (rhymes with "ho") British accent, and most of the lyrics are pretty clever in addition as well too also. Even the ska material is spiffy - especially the wondermous "Little Man In My Head."
And the funniest bit on the whole album - heck, maybe the funniest bit of their entire career - is accessible only to diehard Zeppelin fans. No one else will get it, or even realize that it's there. But it is. Right there at the beginning of "Methodist Coloring Book." Aww man. I laughed for weeks. It's short. It's stupid. It's vague. But ahhh man, they do it so well.
And yeah, before I had even heard this album, I'd see the picture of the album cover on different sites and laugh my ass off.
Soul Rotation - Hollywood 1992.
Silly me, I thought he was kidding. No sir. He sings lead on three of these thirteen songs; Joe Jack (or "Butterfly Fairweather") does the rest...which is fine, especially since these songs aren't supposed to be funny. They're beautiful little pop gems (except for the crappy ones - "Big Scary Place" and "Silly Dreams," for example) with one foot in Martianville and the other hand takin' a ride on the Paranoia Express. Lots of keyboards, but not crap. Just nuance, essence, and verve to complement the lovely guitar strumming. Lovely. That's an accurate description. Not funny, no, but "How It's Gonna Be" is an awfully amusing sixties soul shot about how life is just a big smelly piece of Tom Snyder. So there's your humor, Mr. Picky!
In closing, let me say that this is the prettiest collection of melodies that The Dead Milkmen have ever done (well, about five of them are pretty - the rest are just....uhh....CATCHY, as it were).
If I Had A Gun EP - Hollywood 1992.
Now We Are Ten - Fan Club 1993.
Aaaah, the Dead Milkmen.
Which reminds me of a fantastic way to make people happy. If a female person you know (friend, sister, mother, teacher) tells you that she is going to hang out with another female person (her sister, friend, grandmother, etc), as they're leaving together, be sure and shout out the door, "HAVE A LESBO-RIFFIC TIME!" Ha hahha! HEEEEE YEAaaahah i don't see much action.
It's not my fault all girls are fags and my dick's so big it throws 'em across the room.
Aaaah, the Dead Milkmen. This was apparently a CD issued to the band's fan club in 1993 to celebrate their decade-old anniversary. It is composed of four songs from their 1983 cassette Funky Barn, three from the infamous Death Rides A Pale Cow demo from '84, then a whole bunch of songs that comprise a live 1984 radio concert called Dead Milkmen Take The Airwaves, a live version of the compilation track "Stupid Mary Anne" from '87, a throwaway live '92 "Surfin' Cow" and finally a cover of The Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things" (NOT "Nothing Can Change The Shape Of Things To Come" - GOD, i hate that song with every vein in my eye!) recorded in Joe Jack Talcum's basement in 1993.
Essentially the appeal here is the rare tracks and early versions of songs that would end up on Big Lizard. (It sure isn't the stage patter - holy cinnamon rolly is Rodney Anonymous an unfunny human being). The rare tracks are a great intrigue-laden attack on Jerry Lewis called "Labor Day" that was probably left off the album for fear of lawsuits ("he'd be broke if it weren't for his disease!"? Yikes!), a silly short BAD throwaway called "Don't Abort That Baby," a cool percussion-mouthnoise-and-harmonica-laden instrumental entitled "Land Of The Shakers," an upbeat simple-but-nice Ramones tribute referred to as "I Don't Wanna," a fast number with a GREAT bass line that should have for DAMN sure been on one of their albums (called "Dance With Me," like TSOL might name an album) and an honestly TUNELESS Meatmen reference entitled "Milkmen Stomp." And I do mean TUNELESS. As in, they wrote no music for the song and just beat on their instruments like a bunch of college kids who think they're getting away with free jazz but aren't. HA! I CAUGHT YOU BLOODY-HANDED, BAND!
As for early versions, "Bitchin' Camaro" is slower than you're used to, but it leaves Dean Clean room to really kick out the jam with some AWESOME fills, "Takin' Retards To The Zoo" features a cutesy "oh-oh-oh!" refrain instead of the tard "whooooa!" that you've heard all these many many years gone by, "I Hate Myself" is destroyed by vocals shouted at the PERFECTLY wrong note to ruin the rest of the song (guess the band felt the same because they ended it a verse early without warning Rod!)
(Stewart, that is).
"VFW" becomes "Censored World" for radio play and I'm done. As the Rodman (Dennis) says at the end of the live show, "If we've offended you, take a hike."
I thought it was nice of him to promote the appreciation of a nature tour like that. So many of our young rock and roll bands today preach nihilism and disdain for all that is Christian and good. Like buttfucking with three dicks crammed up there at the same time.
Oh hell, did I say "CHRISTIAN and good"? I of course meant "FISTING and good."
Not Richard, But Dick - Hollywood
Chaos Rules - Live At The Trocadero - Restless
Stoney's Extra Stout (Pig) - Restless 1995.
The melodies here are just your basic bar chord things - very simple and minimal, almost live-sounding and lacking the input from outside musicians that made Beelzebubba and Bucky Fellini sound so full; howe'er, it still seems like an attempt to go back to the old (humorous) Milkmen style. Rodney sings (well, recites) eight of these fifteen songs, and they're all pretty clever. Although perhaps not as effortlessly hilarious as their finest work, tracks like the ridiculous spy story "Peter Bazooka," the religious query/Shaggs tribute "When I Get To Heaven," and the truly persuasive anti-work manifesto "Chaos Theory" are surprisingly thoughtful and intriguing. Others, like "Helicopter Interiors" (which sounds a whole lot more like an Eat Your Paisley! track than one from Soul Rotation or Not Richard, But Dick) and "The Girl With The Strong Arm" just don't make a whole lot of sense. But who cares? They're still toe-tappingly swell. On occasion, especially in "Don't Deny Your Inner Child," Rodney's recitations sound like little more than King Missile rip-offs, but aside from these moments, they are almost all eminently enjoyable.
And the other half? Well, Joe Jack's just gettin' wussier by the day. I love his bouncy pop ones (especially "I Can't Stay Awake" and "Big Deal"), but his adult pop love stories, "I'm Flying Away" and "Like To Be Alone," reach far too high and just don't make it at all. And then, of course, there's "Chrystalline," a lounge jazz thing sung by....hmm....Dean, maybe? Whoever sings it, it is by far the least Milkmen-esque song ever recorded (except possibly "Like To Be Alone," but let's not mention that song any more, okay?). I don't know what's been on Joe Jack's mind since Soul Rotation; maybe he just got tired of feeling like a joke? Unfortunate. He was a pretty good joke. Still, he's also a pretty good songwriter. You take some basic chords and put them in a nice order and by golly, you're a pop genius. That's all it takes. I miss The Dead Milkmen.
Anyway, up untill Soul Rotation I bought everything they did and played everything from Nutrition and VFW to The Puking Song on my radio show (85-90 on wmuw88.5 in Columbus Mississippi).
What the hell happened? Metapysical Graphiti was so damn good, the first band I ever loved was shanana and their tribute was perfect. Soul Rotation was such a dissapointment I think I cried and I havent bought a tape until I got Death rides a pale cow. Which is ok considering the cheesy filler songs, damn i know a band isn't perfect but up to soul rotation I didn't hear one bad song! Anyway I still listen to the good stuff and remember talking to the guys after the gig, they were the kings in their day.
Now We Are 20 - Restless 2003
The King in Yellow – Self-released 2011
The biggest issue surrounding a Dead Milkmen reunion album would have to be, “Can they still write an album’s worth of terrific melodies?” Well, take off your Worry Panties™, because their jangly pop hooks are as strong as ever! Plus, as always, the band “shakes it up” by venturing into related subgenres, including traditional Irish folk ballad “William Bloat,” stompy garage rocker “13th Century Boy,” vomitous jazz-pop “I Can’t Relax,” dark beatnik/art brooder “Melora Says,” snotty white funker “She’s Affected” and Big Lizard-style punk rocker “Meaningless Upbeat Happy Song.” Not all of these experiments are successful (“I Can’t Relax” is in fact the worst song ever written), but they break up the jangly pop steak into bite-sized installments so you don’t choke to death on its brilliance. The King in Yellow hearkens back to the Beelzebubba days with the occasional inclusion of non-rock instruments; flute, violin, accordion and xylophone all make appearances, in addition to the keyboards they’ve enjoyed since Soul Rotation.
They’re lyrically on the ball too, although some of the subject matter leans toward the obscure (Roman emperor Tiberius!? Cellist/vocalist Melora Creager of Rasputina!? Homeland security-targeted Atlanta activist Caitlin Childs!?). Heck, even the album title is a reference to a 19th century collection of gothic horror fiction. Why they all fancy showin’ off? Oh how I long for the simpler days of “Taking Retards to the Zoo.”
Not really. There are actually several quite relevant and thoughtful lyrical themes on this record, including:
- The selling out of musical ideals: “Country music used to be about music, not the country/There once was a time when rap was dangerous/Now flag-waving idiots and millionaire illiterates dance across the screen -- Johnny Cash died for you!”
-The dumbing down of pop culture: “I’ve seen young people wasting their time reading books about sensitive vampires. It’s kinda sad. But you say it’s not the end of the world…. Well, maybe it is!”
- Our surprising lack of social progress: “Illiterate peasants crowding in on me/I feel like an island in a filthy sea/Feels like I’m living in the 13th century”
- The proliferation of dangerous chemicals in our products: “Subtle changes to the nervous system are a small price to pay/When you consider the role in our lives that solvents play!”
- A brilliant concept for a new reality game show: “Contestant number one killed his daughter and his wife/Could not guess ‘Waste not, want not,’ so he lost his life/HANGMAN!”
- The hopelessness of optimism in a world filled with poverty: “There ain’t no guiding force behind the universe/And I think that if there was, it would only make things worse/You’ll fill out the forms and I’ll stand in line/And when it’s all over we’ll be buried in the sky”
- The hopelessness of optimism in a world filled with death: “The weathergirl on the TV/Said April showers bring May flowers/The next day our town was flooded/Hundreds died in a matter of hours”
- The hopelessness of optimism, period: “Do you suffer from depression? Well if you don’t, you probably should, because the world is an ugly violent place and the only people who can’t see that are idiots and the blind. And believe me brothers and sisters, the blind can smell how bad it is out here!”
- Rodney Anonymous’ inability to appreciate the genius of Norah Jones: “If I never get Norah Jones, there’s a good chance that I’ll die alone”
Joe Jack sings four of the 17 songs, using a voice that seems a bit more fey than before – particularly in the gay-themed “Some Young Guy.” Rodney’s voice seems a little lower and calmer than previously, but he whips up the energy when required. The only problem I hear is that a few of the more melodic songs cry out for an actual singer; Rodney does his best to put across tracks like “Passport to Depravity” and “Caitlin Childs,” but – as he’d probably be the first to admit – he’s tone deaf. He doesn’t come anywhere NEAR the right notes. Thank God he’s as charismatic a ranter as ever on the rest of the album; an all-singing Rodney would be a painful Rodney!
I insist that you visit www.deadmilkmen.com right now and purchase this album. It is absolutely up to their old standards, at times even surpassing them. And see them live if they come near your town!
If your Dead Milkmen collection is missing any discs, BUY THEM NOW by clicking here!
If you like the Dead Milkmen, click here because I interviewed all of them! Separately!