August 6, 2009

Wonderfully Colored Plastic War Toys

Dead Milkmen
Soul Rotation

When the Dead Milkmen dropped this record, their legions of fans immediately shat the bed. This was a band that was massively popular in underground circles, with the punks and skaters, the college rock dudes, even some of the goths and metalheads all having one of the ubiquitous smiling cow t-shirts. My first exposure to them was before I was even into punk at all, when someone let me hear "Bitchin' Camaro" and "Rastabilly" and inexplicably told me it was early Anthrax. What did I know.

Anyway, Soul Rotation isn't funny. At all. That's it's biggest misstep. Even when they weren't hilarious, the Milkmen were consistently chuckle-worthy, or at the very least you could tell they were trying. On this record, the lyrics are occasionally odd, but not really in a humorous way. So there's that. Another weird thing is that Joe Jack Talcum (or Butterfly Fairweather as he went by on this record) sings more songs than Rodney Anonymous (H.P Hovercraft on this record).

But the music is really great. The simple punk sound of their early records is gone, replaced by melodic pop, funk, even a little ska. There are a coupl'a punkish songs here, but it's different. Anyway, I've always stood by it, even though the band never really recovered from the perceived quality drop (Not Richard, But Dick was a pretty good return to their earlier irreverence, but Stoney's Extra Stout (Pig) was terrible). What was side 2 (starting with the excellent "Silly Dreams") is stronger than side 1, FYI.

Soul Rotation


James Joyce said...

This was the last Dead Milkmen album I ever listened to, although I liked it. I always liked Joe's songs better anyhow. They were kind of a bummer during this period, though, and I remember their live shows seemed to suffer as well from it.

cdb said...

I saw them touring for this record and the one after it, and they were fantastic both times. I met Joe before the second show and stood and talked to him for a while. A friend and I had bought little stuffed cows to give them, and he got us to autograph them, which I thought was the coolest thing.

I'm planning on seeing them in Chicago in October. Curious to see how an all grey-haired version of the band is gonna be (minus Dave Blood, obv).

Gray said...

after Beelzebubba i checked out of Dead Milkmen Town, so i never actually heard this one, but out of respect to my elders (what?) will give it a listen.

what's weird is that i just loaded Eat Your Paisleys onto my ipod and have been rocking it a lot on bike rides. what a great record.

cdb said...

I just saw The Dead Milkmen at the Riot Fest in Chicago. They didn't play anything from this album or either of the albums after it. I suspect I was one of the few in the crowd who was bummed.