Never Heard of 'Em
The Dead Milkmen
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Big Lizard in My Backyard
I listened to Big Lizard in My Backyard over a few days, both alone and with other humans. It's funny! Like jokes from Popsicle sticks in an alternate universe set to music, or short animated movies—silly and weird. (As usual, I don't love the yelling.) Music editor Emily Nokes said the Dead Milkmen were very important to her, so I tried hard. The people around me laughed a lot, so I didn't feel like a dick for making them do my "work" with me. Someone admitted to never remembering which is which when it comes to the Dead Milkmen and the Dead Kennedys. Then we tried making up mnemonic devices about Jell-O to help. (It didn't work! He's still confused.)
I think, in the end, that this kind of joke-punk is made for dancing and laughing, and I like that because frown music gets old after a while. But the day has not quite come when I can fully enjoy someone whine-screaming over guitars, unless there's a good reason—and "I don't wanna be on the beach" is not good enough for me. The guitars were fun—beach guitars, strummed while jumping. DM sound a little like if someone made a cartoon about the teenage children of the B-52s making a punk band behind their parents' backs.
The real gem in the dairy crown of these Milkmen is the total awesomeness of the lyrics. If you were playing this album as a teenager and your parents heard it, their knee-jerk response would be to tell you to cut your hair/get a job/etc. But if they listened for 30 more seconds, the likelihood that they'd be able to keep from laughing is slim. These jokes are for everybody! Parents, too. (Except for the zoo one. C'mon, guys.)
Here are the best ones... From "Beach Song": "I gave my ice cream to a shark/And now I got nothing to eat." Good point! Or in "Swordfish," the opener: "Some people believe in astrology/Others believe in technology/Some people believe in all those -ologies/But I BELIEVE IN SWORDFISH!/(He believes in swordfish!)" Man, you did not see that one coming, right? Same with "Rastabilly" and its rhyme joke (oh, the rhyme joke, an oldie but a goodie): "My baby drives a truck/My baby sure is good luck/My baby has a pet duck/And my baby is a heck of a fffffffriend." HA! Gotcha. They're also big fans of left field. Like "Serrated Edge," a song about starting a Charles Nelson Reilly–based religion: "Just me on a hilltop with 15 girls/In a Nelson Reilly orgy that'll make your hair curl."
I realize, now that I'm out of space, that I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about these guys! Ask me about them later. Really! At a party or something. For now...
I give this a "laugh and the whole world etc." out of 10.