Joe Jack Talcum

Posted on July 28, 2008


Forty-four-year-old punk-rock desk jockeys. You know the type. You probably know a few yourself. Tried out for Blondie, DK’s stole their lyrics; these days, they’re filling out spreadsheets for money. We humor these folks. They’ve apparently been through a lot.

But Joe Jack Talcum (aka Joe Genero) is one office admin you needn’t humor. Having masterminded the Dead Milkmen, the man has led the life of a modest rock star, and he’s since pushed through that band’s demise to helm several great Philly bands and solo recordings without the slightest swelling of ego.

Of course, Joe’s creative career would have never worked if he had any ego in the first place. In the Milkmen, he was the only kid in punk who could sing a song about puking on himself and render it as innocent as your kid brother spilling a bowl of cereal. Now he keeps afloat with a day job in marketing while writing songs for collaborations with all kinds of old local friends.

Over the phone one Sunday afternoon, the real-life Joe’s manner is as perfectly mellow and kind as you’d hope for. Like a 16-year-old memorizing bands out of a Sessions catalog, Genero has enthusiastically name-dropped a dozen bands by the time a minute is up (Hush Hush Revolutions, Uke Box, Stockyard Stoics, etc.). He’s getting ready to record a new album with his roommate as The Cheesies. And I think he’s whacking some kind of food into shape on the counter in his kitchen.

“I’m not interested in the fame at all,” he says. “People that become famous get famous for a good reason, and that’s basically that they really think they’re famous.”

Still touring at least once a year, Genero never takes trips down memory lane. “I like to see where all the scenes are, see who’s new and who’s still around,” he says. “I’m probably looking forward to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the most. There are kids there, but I don’t know why.”

Genero’s been steadily releasing material for free on his website—demos for old Milkmen songs, old solo songs and new demos for any of his various bands. His latest, “Sex Sting,” is possibly the first believably sad song about an unlucky internet pedophile caught by an undercover cop on IM. Set to a moping John Wesley Harding-ish Dylan groove, Genero sings in his familiar Gordon Gano/surfer-kid drawl: “I got caught up in a sex sting / I wish I had not sent those dirty links.”

You can get a dose of his no-nonsense good stuff at Great Scott this week; and come December, he’s hoping to travel with his new (new) band, The Low Budgets. “If I can get, like, two weeks off,” he adds.

[Originally Appeared in Boston’s Weekly Dig 11.1.06