Joe Jack Talcum forges on with other acts, acerbic solo songs

Joe Jack Talcum said he’s never heard a word from Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil, despite immortalizing his vehicular manslaughter charge in Dead Milkmen’s satirical 1980s send-up, “Bitchin’ Camaro.”


Whether hailing the joys of “Smokin’ Banana Peels,” escaped 4-H projects lunching on a Dead tour (“The Thing That Only Eats Hippies”), or other outrageous exploits (“Beach Party Vietnam,” “Takin Retards to the Zoo,” “Sri Lanka Sex Hotel”), the Philadelphia quartet spent a dozen years in the mid-’80s and ’90s goofing on everything under the sun. The band’s joyous irreverence was wedded to a tuneful, alt-rock jangle, which the musicians rode on their biggest hit, “Punk Rock Girl.”

The comic-rock crew originated in Talcum’s bedroom while he was in junior high. It began with improvised skits created with a neighbor friend, and, under the influence of Monty Python and the “Dr. Demento” radio show, grew to encompass music.

“Even as a 6- or 7-year-old, I was doodling on the piano, making up tunes and stuff,” said Talcum, aka Joe Genaro. “Bob Dylan was what made me want to get an acoustic guitar and start writing songs.”

The Dead Milkmen released eight albums before breaking up in 1995, frustrated with music labels and the grind of touring. He was the sole member to remain deeply involved with music, forging on with the bands Touch Me Zoo and Town Managers, as well as self-released albums under the names Butterfly Joe and Jasper Thread.

He won’t deny being scatterbrained, and confessed he could be an undiagnosed case of ADD, but what Talcum really appears to have is a case of creative wanderlust. He just can’t stop.

“I tend to keep a lot of projects going at the same time, and eventually, one will get to the point where it has to be something,” he said.

His most recent endeavor, garage-punkers The Low Budgets ” whose catalogue consisted of songs hailing/kvetching its impoverished state (epitomized by albums like “Leave Us a Loan” and “Aim Low, Get High”) ” broke up last year, when singer Chris Seegel moved to Berlin.

With time on his hands, Talcum returned to his solo career, releasing a couple of split records with Mischief Brew and Ratboy, as well as a full-length, “Live in the Studio,” which is pretty much exactly what it says.

“It’s basically an example of my live show or what it was in February when I recorded. It’s half me re-doing old Dead Milkmen songs, and then half of my own songs and one cover,” he said.

Although he still favors the humorous potential of song, Talcum’s not incapable of a little heartfelt maudlin, as witnessed on his loving, album-closing ode, “Alcohol”: “Of your sweet kisses I never will tire / I wish I never had to leave you / I gave you my heart, I gave you my liver / I gave you my love and you took my pain.”

“It was the love of my life,” he said. “I got into the drinking, post-Dead Milkmen, and then I got right back out of it again. I don’t drink anymore, but I did drink quite heavily for a while.”

These days, Talcum’s focused on more positive things, including a Dead Milkmen reunion, which began with a couple shows in 2004 after bassist Dave Schulthise’s suicide, and then re-commenced in earnest last year with a handful of shows.

“I’ve been having a great time. I didn’t expect it to happen when it did, and I’m happy it did,” he said. “I’m glad we’re still together and I’m glad we’re working on new material. I look forward to playing more shows. Hopefully, we can keep doing this.”

Talcum recently joined San Diego indie outfit Pinback’s tour as a last-minute replacement for a support act that fell off the lineup.

“It’s a little bit out of my normal comfort zone,” he said, “but you have to do that every now and then.”

Joe Jack Talcum with Pez Breakfast, Ali Bro and the Hippo and The Dead Armadillos perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. “Chris Parker

Chris Parker

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