Welcome to WEEK 177 of 4T! (Video Episode #3)
The Dead Milkmen – First Four Albums (1985-88)
Philadelphia – my old hometown – has a rich musical history, and every few years there’s a buzz about the scene there (NOW? - look up Mannequin Pussy). When I was a teen, the Philly area had some major acts either making their name then (The Hooters, Joan Jett, Robert Hazard & the Heroes) or starting out on their way to major success later (Boys II Men, Will Smith, The Roots, Live). I was immersed in the present and the possible. And like most of music fandom in Philly, I had a hunger for good music of any kind.
The Dead Milkmen are from Philly. Their first four albums were huge in my life during high school and college. I saw them several times live, usually in and around South Street. I loved how they were/are both punk AND meta-punk, killing the punk/surf-punk style while commenting on and sending it up at the same time, and throwing in whatever other genres (dance, pop, folk, hard rock) they felt like using. They had the punk “disdain” for hippies down from the get-go, even though by then the either/or division was old news. So they made fun of hippies AND made fun of making fun of hippies. Punk and meta-punk.
They’ve been through tons of ups & downs: their initial cult-to-chart years; their declining major label years; their hiatus and the tragic suicide of Dave Blood; and their reforming (yay!) a little over a decade ago. Their music from the last five years is better than it’s ever been. Like Philly (and me), they don’t quit. They’re always ready to come back for more, whether as underdogs, veterans, or stars.
Like them, I’ve always been both directly in the mix and way out of it. It means my/our music is often on trend AND observational about what’s going on, and has lots of genre-hopping & experimentation. This is why our music is both so vibrant & so hard to pin down. What I got from the Milkmen (among other bands) was what I call “irreverent reverence” – honoring or working within a style, but not feeling beholden to it, even to the point of commenting on or poking at it. Lyrics can be outwardly or subtly funny, openly or cleverly jabbing.
Here are two recent examples that fit all that:
‘The Garden” - https://recarea.bandcamp.com/track/the-garden
“Xmiss” - https://recarea.bandcamp.com/track/xmiss-2
Favorites are: BLIimBY: “Beach Song”, “Big Lizard”, “Bitchin’ Camaro”, “Right Wing Pigeons”; EYP: “Beach Party Vietnam”, “The Thing that Only Eats Hippies”; virtually all of Bucky Fellini; Beelzebubba: “Brat in the Frat”, “I Walk the Thinnest Line”, “Punk Rock Girl”, “Smokin’ Banana Peels”.