Wrapped in a package more sumptuous than anyone should expect for the Dead Milkmen, Now We Are 20 reissues a self-released compilation from 1993 (Now We Are 10) that included excerpts from three self-released live tapes -- all recorded between late 1983 and early 1984. The majority of the songs (and highlights) date from a May 1984 live-in-the-studio set for Philadelphia's WXPN. Always simple, sarcastic, and rude; usually creative, catchy, and very funny, Rodney Anonymous and co. laid down 13 songs that would later appear on their best record, the 1985 debut Big Lizard in My Backyard. The punk classic "Bitchin' Camaro" comes complete with its familiar "down to the shore" intro, plus a new set of Rodney's Doors show lyrics ("Come on baby slash my tires/Time to set my car on fire!"). Most of the songs differ only slightly from the recorded versions, though the sound quality is similar and the group often sounds even more invigorating than on record. (One exception is Dean Clean's vocal on his own "Dean's Dream," which proves he wasn't in the right voice the night of the performance.) Rodney's obnoxious microphone patter is another bonus, at least for fans of the group; he introduces "Rastabilly" by explaining that it's a cover of a tune from the period when Bob Marley worked with the Blasters (which apparently produced the album Souped Up for Jah). Now We Are 20 adds four bonus tracks from the original release, including "Ask Me to Dance" from the Instant Club Hit EP, the Mott the Hoople cover "Rock 'n' Roll Queen" from a promo compilation, and an unreleased cover of the Specials' "A Message to You Rudy."
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AllMusic Review by John Bush