Punk rockers of a certain age usually either thank or blame the Dead Milkmen for shaping the soundtrack of their youth.
The band have been delighting fans and confounding critics for four decades with their distinctive brand of unruly, politically incorrect satirical punk pop. Over their prolific career, they’ve released twelve albums and a long string of singles and EPs, proving that sarcasm can have staying power—thanks to sharp wit, catchy hooks, and keen musicianship.
The Dead Milkmen emerged from the Philly hardcore punk scene in 1983, standing out with their clean, undistorted sound and snarky social commentary that took gleeful stabs at pop culture through stream-of-conscious rants against trendsetters, rich kids, right-wing politics, religion, squares, even punk itself.
In 1985, they released their debut album, Big Lizard in My Backyard, which earned them a devoted college radio following and launched the punk anthem “Bitchin’ Camaro.” For a short time—and much to their bemusement—the band found themselves thrust into the mainstream spotlight when their college-radio smash hit “Punk Rock Girl,” off 1988’s Beelzebubba, landed them in heavy rotation on MTV, alongside the likes of Phil Collins and Poison. They continued to build a loyal cult following—famously including Detroit Tigers infielder Jim Walewander—and toured nonstop for a decade, traveling in a converted ambulance they called the “jambulance.”
In 1995, after releasing a handful more records and singles, the Dead Milkmen called it quits, and entered what would become a nearly 13-year hiatus. Following the suicide of Schulthise in 2004, the band briefly reunited for two memorial shows, and in 2008, reformed with new bassist Dan Stevens and began writing new material and performing. They released a series of singles and two albums, 2011’s The King in Yellow and 2014’s Pretty Music for Pretty People.
Welcome to the End of the World, the Dead Milkmen’s debut release on The Giving Groove label, delivers the Milkmen’s trademark twisted humor along with some underlying dark elements that will creep in to your consciousness if you pay close enough attention. The album’s title, inspired by a night at a Road Warrior-style post-apocalyptic party, sets an ominous tone. “You're either going to buy it or not,” warns frontman Rodney Linderman, aka Rodney Anonymous. “If you don't buy it, don't blame us when you get eaten by wolves, because this EP will be the only thing standing between you and the wolves."
Linderman, who wrote all of the tracks except the doom-laden “The Coast Is Not Clear,” which was penned by vocalist/guitarist Joe Genaro ("Joe Jack Talcum"), says the songs came to him in a series of terrible dreams. “Some of the songs are from what I call The Nightmare Cycle,” he explains. “I write in cycles; I was having nightmares and getting up in the middle of the night and writing.”
The six tracks run the gamut of weird and wild—from the heavy, Ramones-influenced lead single “Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge,” a ghost story about the haunted trains terrorizing passengers on the Stockholm Metro; to “Battery-Powered Rat,” a jangly instrumental about two popes, a chess game, and a rat at the Vatican. (“Battery-Powered Rat is one of the weirdest things we've ever done,” says Sabatini.)
Musically, the band draws on industrial influences, with a strong beat-driven aesthetic. “It's a pretty good representation of the different styles of things that we do,” says drummer Dean “Dean Clean” Sabatino. “It's got some sort of heavy stuff and some groovy, almost dance-oriented stuff—which is fun to say.”
Following The Giving Groove’s model of donating one half of all profits to music charities, the Dead Milkmen will donate 50 percent of album proceeds to Girls Rock Philly, an organization dedicated to empowering girls and women from the greater Philadelphia region through music education and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, self-expression, critical thinking, and collaboration.
"We were excited about The Giving Groove’s ‘artist friendly, socially conscious’ concept and liked the idea of channeling part of our album profits to a local music organization,” says Sabatino. “Girls Rock Philly has great programs for girls and women, such as summer camps, youth bands, and music-writing classes."
"I really like the idea of charity, and I like the idea of Girls Rock, because most of the musicians I listen to are very angry female musicians,” adds Linderman. “So I thought that giving musical equipment, music lessons, all that, to young women would be more deadly than arming young men, because I thought that's where revolution and change might come from.”