Stereogum has premiered a video for the title track from The Dead Milkmen‘s new album, Pretty Music For Pretty People (to be released on October 7th). Renowned for their satirical approach to punk rock, the Philadelphia quartet’s twisted wit is on full display with what’s either their tenth or twelfth (depending on whether or not you’re using the metric system) full-length. It’s proof that, even after thirty plus years, dozens of lawsuits, and hundreds of hours of bird watching, The Dead Milkmen can still craft irreverent music that’s as relevant as ever.
Formed in the early 80s, shortly after the Earth’s crust began to cool, The Dead Milkmen first took the underground punk scene by storm with their debut album, Big Lizard in My Backyard, an album described as ‘the greatest cultural achievement of our time’… by the band itself. The following years found the Philadelphia group invading the mainstream with albums like Eat Your Paisley and Beelzebubba, even catching MTV’s attention with quirky hits like ‘Punk Rock Girl’ and ‘Bitchin’ Camaro’ (the latter having recently appeared in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black). Yet by 1995, The Dead Milkmen did what any self-respecting band on the rise to fame would do: disband.
It wasn’t until reuniting to perform at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2008 (with bassist Dan Stevens stepping in for the late Dave Schulthise) that The Dead Milkmen gained a second wind. ‘It was fun getting back together to rehearse for the performance,’ recalls Joe Genaro (guitars/vocals). ‘The process itself helped to rejuvenate us.’ As Dean Clean (drums) recalls, ‘Once we returned to Philadelphia, we had a band meeting where we decided that if we were going to do more shows, we had to start writing new music again. We did not want to turn into a touring oldies act.’ As a result, The Dead Milkmen unleashed 2011’s The King In Yellow, its first album in 16 years. Yet the creative juices kept flowing, with the group wanting to keep recording. ‘I think we’re stronger in some ways,’ declares Clean. ‘We tend to collaborate more with song writing than we previously had. We now have the advantage, or curse, of new technology at our disposal.’
The Dead Milkmen entered Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recording Studios to work on the album, Pretty Music For Pretty People, with assistance from engineer Brian McTear and partner Amy Morrissey (who also appears on the album’s title track). ‘I wanted to produce it myself, but the band couldn’t afford me,’ reveals Rodney Anonymous (singer/keyboardist). While the majority of the album is composed of brand new material, a few select songs on Pretty Music For Pretty People were recently released as a limited run 7 inch single through the group’s own label. ‘It was Ryan Adams’ suggestion,’ proclaims Anonymous. ‘I tell people that and they don’t believe me – probably because I also tell people that I rock climb with David Bowie, which is obviously a lie.’ ‘It seemed like a fun project at the time,’ adds Genaro. ‘Releasing a few songs in small batches allowed us to work on select chunks of songs at a time, a slightly unusual process for us.’
The recording process may have differed from the making of past albums, yet Pretty Music For Pretty People finds The Dead Milkmen lyrically at their sharpest to date. Such off-color wit is fully displayed on the album’s title track, a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal to the clamor for ‘pretty music.’ As Anonymous explains, ‘I was hanging out in a club with some friends one night, lamenting the fact that none of our favorite bands could get a scrap of media attention while outlets were pushing the most deplorable, banal, non-threatening, Brooklyn-based pop music onto the world. That’s when one of my friends said ‘I call that shit ‘Pretty music for pretty people.’ I began to imagine an alternative reality ‘ one where the Beatles had lost the war and the Velvet Underground had won, a world where Billy Joel could never get into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame but Kevorkian Death could.’
Pretty Music For Pretty People will be made available digitally and on both CD and vinyl formats. The Dead Milkmen will be performing a handful of shows in support of the album, with dates to be announced shortly.