The guys in Dead Milkmen didn’t come across as the bookworms of the so-called college rock scene. For most of the 1980s, singers Rodney Anonymous and Joe Jack Talcum were content to dish out material like “Bitchin’ Camaro” and “The Puking Song” to fans who were at the same level of sophistication. Then, in 1991, Hollywood Records came calling. It ranks as one of the more famous head-scratchers in the history of punxploitation, up there with The Circle Jerks’ 1994 major-label deal. Suddenly, The Dead Milkmen went legit. They dropped the gross-out humor. They took songwriting seriously. Not surprisingly, they totally flopped (as did The Circle Jerks). Turns out people like the dumb stuff. The Milkmen never got to be the next Blink-182 or LMFAO, but on this reunion tour—or maybe just in my dreams—they’re gunning for a second chance. Having followed cohorts Camper Van Beethoven and Mission of Burma out of retirement, the Milkmen are still acting like grown-ups—their 2011 album The King in Yellow references critical theory journal The Baffler—but if you ask nicely tonight, they just might play “Takin’ Retards to the Zoo.”
Dead Milkmen perform at 7 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. $18. ustreetmusichall.com. (202) 588-1880.