Dead Milkmen - Quaker City Quiet Pills (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead Milkmen

Quaker City Quiet Pills (2023)

Giving Grove

As Quaker City Quiet Pills proves, the Dead Milkmen really DO walk the thinnest line. Since their inception, the Dead Milkmen have been unfortunately tagged as a “comedy punk” band or “satirical rock band.” I’d hazard to guess that this isn’t because there isn’t more to the Dead milkmen, but it’s because they are so gosh darn funny. The new LP, embraces the yuks side while amplifying their other aspects of the band- namely their socio-political bend and their straight up weirdness. To that end, QCQP is the band’s tightest and sharpest LP in a long time… and it’s really good, too.

In press materials, various members of the band mentioned that they felt QCQP called back to the band’s first four wham-bam albums. That’s true in that these tracks are all very tightly written. They either embrace the class pop-rock format, as in the opening track, or they go full-whacked out. “Melt into Night” finds the Milkmen doing something they’ve never done before- merging Brian Eno with the sci-fi-psyche of Chrome. It’s awesome.

So, this LP isn’t a “back to basics” record in the sense of say, a later day Metallica album. Rather, it’s the Dead Milkmen cutting one of their most dead Milk-men-y records yet. So, of course, the laffs are prominent. In “Grandpa’s not a racist (he just voted for one)” Rodney Anonymous drops one liners between the refrain like he’s Henny Youngman (and the refrain itself is sort of a one-liner). “How do you manage to even exists” finds Rodney hilariously apoplectic over people that take too long to order at the take-out place. One of my favorite sections is a classic Rodney-Joe Jack Talcum/Laurel-n-Hardy skit where Rodney plays the part of a QAnon affected youth and the youth’s concerned, but easily convinced, mother.

And that track alone kind of underscores the album’s main thrust. Perhaps unlike earlier DM albums, here there aren’t many yuks for thre sake of yuks. Rodney usually couches political skewing underneath the comedy. It’s usually an effective tool in that, just some guy yelling at you about politics can be empowering-like crass- it can also become insufferable- like Conflict after 20 minutes/. The DMs know that to get you on their side they have to be likeable first, and savvy second, and that’s what they do throughout the album. Rodney’s lyrics here are some of his tightest yet. I also like how he mixes up vocal delivery styles too, which gives the album a wider span. I wonder if Rodney can be a little too try hard with his points sometimes, ala “God wrote com junkie”- but maybe that is the beauty of Rodney. He doesn’t always keep it “Tasteful” or “secure,” like Ian MacKaye or Robin Hitchcokc would- he punches as hard a she can without calculating the blow, resulting in a mad thrash that kncoks out more often then it misses.

And of course, the astral-obfuscated view of Joe Jac Talcum counters Rodney’s literalness. “Astral Dad” seems to be just a story about a father that flies through the beyond to fight ancient psychic demons- a lot like Hawkwind, Psychic TV, or B.O.C. might craft. Though Joe being Joe, the track is written in a merge of psychedelic haziness and folk, which makes the tune a real mind drifter, as opposed to a Hawkwind style fist slammer. It really makes you think both about the lyrics and the sonic textures that Joe conjures.

See also the above mentioned “Melt into Night” which was driven mainly by drummer Dean Clean. It’s unlike anything else the DMs have release- its steely, robotic, and futuristic. As I said, you could put this on a Chrome album and no one would blink. That’s a very high compliment if you ask me. A big part of this is due to bassist Dandrew that curls out slithering bass lines that are forceful, but not furced. He does this throughout the album and congeals with Dean’s drumming- everyone here is working for maximum economy and punch.

In interviews, Rodney has often expressed things like “go listen to better bands than us… like Ego Likeness.! I appreciate the punk-y sentiment, but the fact is, the Dead Milkmen are now beyond their 40th year and are putting out some their sharpest material. With records like this, I’d like to see the band beat their chests as opposed to sashaying out of the way. This is not a band by a veteran band where the release feels like fan service or an obligation or like it’s on cruise control. Rather, the DMs seem to be invigorated, excited, and they’ve painted a portrait of themselves that shows the subject in the best possible light, though, as with tracks like “Melt” and “Astral dad,” they’ve left some canvas blank for the future….