By T.J. Dempsey | Music Editor Published: 06/04/2013 8:00 am EST
It’s a fairly common compulsion: whenever you find yourself inside the house of another, you’re immediately drawn to the various bookshelves and collections littering the premises. The media may have changed over the years, with books gradually making room for the likes of records & CDs, DVDs & Blu-rays, and video games, but the allure is always the same. A large part of the whole collection mentality is for public display and appreciation, after all, but it goes deeper than that. When we peruse another’s collected media, we are learning about them and, in some small way, opening ourselves to a potential connection. That’s the genuine heart behind every collection: the capacity for inviting in others, and for making a part of yourself accessible to them.
While his name eludes me at this moment, I’ll always recall the college professor whose CD collection I was exploring when I first became aware of The Dead Milkmen. It was a copy of their greatest hits compilation, ‘Death Rides a Pale Cow,’ that would serve as my introduction into one of punk rock’s foremost humorists. While songs like “Beach Party Vietnam” and “Tiny Town” bore similarities to the contemporaneous Dead Kennedys, Dead Milkmen front-man Joe Genaro lacked much of Biafra’s innate rage. Instead, Genaro seemed of a more grounded bearing, allowing for vitriol when necessary but just as easily slipping into fun inanity as the mood suited.
“Dean’s Dream,” the Dead Milkmen track that’s stuck with me the longest, is neither overtly comedic or angry. Rather, the sparse production and nostalgic tone of the narrator conveys a far more personal significance. Given the vague, dream like associations (“horse meat dishes” and “Steve McGarrett”), one could suppose that the track was a literal account of drummer Dean Sabatino’s dreams. Beyond that, however, the chorus is especially evocative of a dreamy sensibility on a more general level: what young man doesn’t fancy escaping with a “girl with long blond hair?” Not a particularly pressing subject for a song, maybe, but the connection “Dean’s Dream” makes with the listener is just as great as any grand polemic or treatise. It’s proof that, once the anger or laughter have subsided, the feelings with linger on, like the memory of a dream.
Thomas Dempsey hails from Greenville County, South Carolina, where he has made a name for himself assembling and delivering sandwiches. A graduate of Presbyterian College with a duel major in Creative Writing and History and a minor in film, he’s achieved the technical status of professional writer by contributing to Examiner.com as a DVD critic. An aficionado of all media, Thomas harbors a particular affinity for visual storytelling and music.