The Dead Milkmen are most widely-known to the public through the success of their 80s hits “Bitchin’ Camaro,” and “Punk Rock Girl,” the latter of which features my all-time favorite guitar solo. The Philly foursome’s brand of punk rock is instantly recognizable and completely inimitable, and evocative of a very particular brand of smart-ass. Think back to high school, and you can picture the guy I mean. He sat in the back of the class, needed a haircut, got a B+ in English but barely passed algebra or physics. This is his soundtrack.
He could have gone somewhere if he’d really applied himself. Or he could have joined The Dead Milkmen. They’re essentially a humble bedroom four-tracker project gone horribly correct, with DIY recordings dating back to 1979—though they didn’t form as a “proper” band until 1981. Their 1985 debut, Big Lizard in my Backyard, eschews the templated, humorless hardcore that was climbing the punk-popularity ladder on the east coast at the time of the band’s formation. Where Minor Threat hit like a neutron bomb, The Dead Milkmen chose to hit more like a pie in the face. 30 years and ten albums later, the decision to err on the funny side of life continues to make TDM’s catalog stand apart. Heavy on polka-pogo rhythms, jangly guitars, and enough non-sequitur lyrical snark to fill about 17 bathtubs. Add a dose of surprisingly pretty surf guitar from time to time, and you still probably won’t get the idea. Just listen.
The Dead Milkmen’s Nimbit Store boasts two full-length albums, The King in Yellow (their first release in 16 years at the time of release) and their latest, Pretty Music for Pretty People, as well as a handful of 7-inch compilations, available as digital downloads or good ol’ vinyl—”in a desperate ploy to appeal to the still stubborn vinyl fetishist,” their profile admits with a knowing sneer.