They're baaaaaack, those playful parodists of punk rock, to deliver the aural equivalent of a double kahlua-and-cream sombrero—with the cream slightly rancid.
Metaphysical Graffiti, perhaps the Milkmen's most uneven release, shows this Philadelphia quartet at its worst and best. The album does contain some truly funny songs, such as "Do the Brown Nose," a down-and-dirty funk parody, and "I Tripped over "the Ottoman," about Rob Petrie's constant state of confusion on the Dick Van Dyke Show.
The best number on this (or any other) Dead Milkmen album, "Dollar Signs in Her Eyes," employs sharp wit and a fine-tuned rock accompaniment to describe a woman who is blinded by her quest for money.
Other songs don't hold up quite as well, not because of their intentionally grating style but because they are uninspired as well as intentionally grating. When the Milkmen played their first punk parodies in the mid-1980s, they sounded appropriately fresh. Now they sometimes seem to be as dated as the music they ridicule. And lead singer Rodney Anonymous has only two basic methods of delivery—speaking and yelling—a limitation that gets boring fairly quickly.
Considering the short life span of most joke-rock bands, it's a feat that the Dead Milkmen are still alive and screaming. They earned their longevity by improving their musical skills and by learning to write songs that are funny and hummable at the same time. They ain't perfect, but it's good to know they're out there fighting the good fight against blandrock. Long may they rave. (Enigma)