News updates for Joe Jack Talcum

Joe Jack Talcum at Vinyl District

For anybody coming of age in late-‘80s USA that harbored curiosity into left of center sounds, making the acquaintance of The Dead Milkmen was basically inevitable. Popular with skate rats, lovers of college-rock, scores of MTV junkies, the surly backpack/trench coat brigade and even the occasional metalhead, they were truly a boundary-crossing outfit.

In general, the Milkmen achieved this circumstance through a punk-derived disdain for seriousness that engaged but didn’t overplay the snotty. Specifically, they delivered sarcastic, sophomoric and low-brow humor, and if there’s a crowd reliably resistant to their charms it’s those with a low tolerance for the zany.

I don’t really belong to that group but also can’t deny that most humor-based music simply fails to move me. However, I’ll openly fess up to a personal Milkmen phase, in part due to the aforementioned ubiquity. And to put a finer point on it, they’re a band with a built in audience; teenagers. As a member of this demographic I was a fan, considering their thing to be refreshingly unstuffy and flippant. Time passed and then one day, the appeal had essentially abated.

So I’m far from any kind of expert on their oeuvre, but the record I recall with some fondness is ‘87’s Bucky Fellini; possessing currents of social commentary amongst the zingers and irreverence, it also flaunted a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Rocket Ship,” the existence of said tune providing a nice doorway into their guitarist/co-vocalist’s less celebrated endeavors.

Back in ‘84 a stream of cassettes began surfacing from the man born Joseph Genaro, a few under the pseudonyms Butterfly Fairweather, Butterfly Joe and Jasper Thread but most carrying the familiar handle Joe Jack Talcum. In ‘04 selections from those releases were issued by Valiant Death Records on the CD Home Recordings 1984-1987; in ‘11 Happy Happy Birthday To Me culled from that disc and put out an LP with additional tracks procured from the first seven years.

Home Recordings 1984-1990 is a welcome document essaying Talcum as an early practitioner of Lo-fi, an aesthetic that didn’t bloom into a full-fledged movement until the following decade. This makes him a legit contemporary of Johnston, a connection HHBTM hasn’t neglected in the promotion of his material. But while fitful stylistic similarities exist, the comparison shouldn’t be overstated.

Talcum is a talented writer, and the examples gathered on 1984-1990 do include a handful of gems, but he also doesn’t reach Johnston’s mastery of pop craft. What they do share, along with left-field but endearing vocal styles, is a bare-bones recording approach, a potential liability transformed into a decided advantage, though even at an early stage Talcum plainly desired broadening the one human being and a tape deck paradigm. With this said 1984-1990’s modest success idles at the intersection of mood and technique.

In this case the decision to accentuate but not abandon the chronological angle of the CD is a smart one, for it allows easy insight into Talcum’s growth; laughs are rare though not completely absent across both LPs, but Home Recordings 1993-1999 reveals compositional prospering and maturation of the lo-fi strategy, Talcum successfully employing a 4-track (captured in an illustration on the sleeve) as he fine-tunes his artistic personality.

This is immediately apparent on “One False Move,” a down-tempo opener built upon strummed acoustic and vocals that fits quite snuggly into the year of its original issue, 1993. Again, the audio clarity isn’t particularly muddy or hissy; in fact, it reminds my ear of (and slightly foresees) the more folky moments on Beck’sMellow Gold, and it’s not until the cheapo keyboard comes in toward the close that the ultimate conventionality of the songwriting is fully revealed. Finessed into a smoother arrangement, “One False Move” could’ve been a candidate for ‘90s Alt-radio.

“Talk” is also largely acoustic driven, though layered and accented with amplification through multi-tracking. Still mildly stripped-down and folkish, the result is a more pronounced and relaxed pop sensibility that infrequently and pleasingly resurfaces throughout the record to underscore Talcum’s increased confidence. The sheer simplicity of its chorus is worthy of note.

It’s the arrival of “Madonna’s Weep” that first exudes the fragile air and emotional arc of music one might’ve purchased from a mid-‘90s K Records mail-order catalog. As the song unwinds hiss is palpable but stays securely in the background. The nature of the fidelity becomes a deeper component in the dirge-like strains of the keyboard-situated (piano and organ) and bent guitar-spiked “Go.”

Returning approximately to the K corral and unraveling so slowly it positively aches is “Call Me a Fool,” and its most interesting aspect is an eruption of effects not easily comparable to Talcum’s ‘90s peers, though it does hit me a little bit like a more bluntly aggressive predecessor to the musique concrète underbelly found in Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Communist Daughter.”

From there 1993-1999 shifts into a milieu recognizably rock as Talcum receives the assistance of a drummer, but those anticipating a drive through the Milkmen’s route will end up hanging in a different neighborhood. Indeed, even as it opens with a joke, the title of the simultaneously shambling and riff-laden “Sense of Humor” is a red herring, and “Sweet and Sour” is a full blown instrumental.

Both numbers attain the solid but aren’t exceptional; if widening its range they derail the album’s focused momentum a bit. “Another Time” gets back into solo mode, though as Talcum goes it alone and stretches beyond five minutes (and with a liberal dose of keyboard residue in its midsection) he doesn’t necessarily radiate the vibe of a loner.

And while maintaining a comfortable middle ground in terms of sound quality, the title of “The Sun Shines out of My Asshole” does highlight the tendency of home recording artists to eschew self-editing. It’s not bad, but the impact is lesser than most of what precedes it on 1993-1999, and deceptive; the song’s not especially snide as it lands between twee and quirk.

“Cup of Tea,” which finds scrappy unpolished drumming reentering its disheveled manner, hints at the ramshackle ambiance of certain ‘80s UK DIY outfits, and “Be My Property” stands as an oddball punk ditty wielding an attack remaining distinct from the Milkmen. “Forever Expanding Dream” then scales and slows things down as threads of experimentation enhance the atmosphere, and “I’m Not Here” inaugurates a reentry to a band setting; it’s rather melodic and unperturbed with an eccentric finale.

“Another Disgusting Pop Punk Song” ends the record on a surprising note of satire, the jab at the debasement of a genre further dating the LP’s environs without being tangibly injurious to the whole. Home Recordings 1993-1999 is a likeably industrious affair, but while stronger than the prior volume it ultimately falls short of amazing. The 14 cuts will be of interest to adventurous partisans of Talcum’s main gig and should stir the attention of listeners into outsider/non-pro album construction.


Joe Jack Talcum at dublab

For most people the idea of an intimate evening with Joe Jack Talcum playing songs in their living room sounds terrifying given the reputation of his better-known band The Dead Milkmen, but this collection of home recordings show a more intimate side to a songwriter better known for his sense of humor. “Talk” and the rest of the songs from the “Home Recordings vol 2 1993-1999” are delicate and subtle. “No one’s looking for this. It’s too subtle, too heartfelt, too understated. But everyone who hears it is going to fall in love, and isn’t that enough—after all there are better ways to measure success than stardom.”


Joe Jack Talcum at Magnet

Joe Jack Talcum is probably best known for his part in the Dead Milkmen, an insane ’80s punk act out of Philadelphia. But now Talcum shows off his softer, more humorous side with his solo work. This comedy is exemplified on new old track “Talk.” To give you a small hint, the chorus repeats just one simple word, but I don’t want to give too much away. Download the track below.


Joe Jack Talcum at Big Takeover

After an enthusiastic reception to his first volume of home recordings,1984-1990 (HHBTM, 2011), Dead Milkmen guitarist, Joe Jack Talcum, graciously presents his humble sequel.

Assembled from self-released cassette tapes, sometimes featuring friends,Home Recordings 1993-1999 showcases Talcum’s talent as a songwriter and lo-fi 4-track producer. It’s an intimate affair, ranging in moods and tones. While the humorous element of The Dead Milkmen is certainly evident, there is also darkness, solitude and reflection, sometimes all within the same song, as on the jangling “Sense of Humor” and “Go,” an astounding psychedelic funeral dirge. Even “The Sun Shines out of My Asshole” proves to be more Dead Boys/Rocket From The Tombs “Sonic Reducer” catharsis than glib crudity, while the instrumental, “Sweet and Sour,” offers some astounding new wave prog and “Another Time” proves to be a pretty folk song with a synthesizer solo. These songs are heartfelt, honest and pure, the thoughts of a grown up punk kid from Pennsylvania.

Anyone expecting The Dead Milkmen’s snotty, satirical punk should pull out their old albums. This is Joe Jack Talcum’s moment in all his tape hiss-y, introverted glory, as fans surely already know.


Joe Jack Talcum at Surviving the Golden Age

Dead Milkmen guitarist Joe Jack Talcum released a collection of his home recording archives in 2011. For a brainchild of one the more insouciant bands of 80s punk, Talcum’s home recordings revealed a darker, melancholic side. This year Talcum will release Home Recordings Vol. 2 1993-1999. Surviving the Golden Age is pleased to premiere, “Be My Property.” The deeply sardonic track shows glimpses of Dead Milkmen genius while having a social commentary edge to it.


Joe Jack Talcum at Imaginalis

Featured track at the link:



Joe Jack Talcum at USA Today

Mention and track stream at USA Today.


Joe Jack Talcum at The Mad Mackeral

For most people the idea of an intimate evening with Joe Jack Talcum playing songs in their living room sounds terrifying given the reputation of his better-known band The Dead Milkmen, but the appearance in 2011 of Home Recordings: 1984-1990 revealed a sadder, more intimate side to a songwriter better known for his sense of humour.

Now via HHBTM Records, comes the second volume, from one of America’s great unheralded songwriters, pulled from an archive that makes you want to hear more, to wonder what else might be in there. Home Recordings: 1993-1999 contains a cosmos of emotion—from funeral marches to rave-ups, irreverence to lament—sometimes even in the same song. A solo album in every sense of the word, it’s like eavesdropping on a soliloquy.

Check out Madonna’s Weep with it’s tweaked-out 3am surreality that recalls Robyn Hitchock’s I Often Dream of Trains.


Joe Jack Talcum at Austin Town Hall

Joe Jack Talcum is probably better known for his comical word play in songs like “Big Lizzard,” but it seems that the Dead Milkmen songwriter has long had a soft side that I wasn’t even aware of, despite calling myself a fan. HHBTM is releasing the second collection of Talcum’s home recordings, illustrating a more down-trodden songwriter; this song has a heavy buzz on the guitar in the recording, showing us all what lo-fi really is meant to sound like.  So if you’re wondering what one of your favorite writers does in the confines of his home, give a listen to Home Recordings Vol. 2 1993-1999; it’s available right now.