It may not be deathless, but 1985's Big Lizard in My Backyard
is that rarest of beasts (as a random listen to any Barenaked Ladies
disc will show): a collection of rock & roll silliness that outlives one playing. The mid-'80s favorite "Bitchin' Camaro" already demonstrated that ability plenty of times over. Portraying two guys yammering about Doors
cover bands and "going down to the shore" before finally getting to the main point -- the way-cool car of the title -- it somehow finds the lost gap between pseudo-jazz grooves and punky snottiness. As left-field a fluke hit single as it gets, its mix of bad taste, rock star mockery, and stoner humor still works well. As a whole, the album shows that the Milkmen
know their rock & roll history, whether tackling serious issues with sarcasm or just aiming for straight-up silliness. The opening track, "Tiny Town," is a quick thrash-and-scream about small minds in small towns, and the blatant idiocy of "Takin' Retards to the Zoo," which is about just what it says it is, finds the Milkmen
's tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. The reggae-tinged "Gorilla Girl" is about a choice in sweethearts that meets with parental disapproval, while the tense, nervous bite of "Right Wing Pigeons" trashes the Reagan administration with style and smirks. Semi-seriousness crops up on the wistfully poppy "Dean's Dream," about "a girl with long blonde hair," and the instrumental finale "Tugena," which shows that when they want to, the Milkmen
can rock out with the best of them. Never too heavy but deeper than expected, Big Lizard
captures these disaffected class clowns getting it out of their system with energy.