The song, written by Joe Genaro, is a typically fast-paced, straightforward, lyrically direct Dead Milkmen number. It eschews the full-on comedic bent of most of the band's work for a slightly more narrative tone. "Punk Rock Girl" is written from the perspective of a guy who meets and subsequently explores Philadelphia with the titular punk rock girl. The pair's rebellious exploits are described in an irreverent tone, becoming increasingly over the top as the song progresses, culminating in driving away in a stolen car.
"Punk Rock Girl" was originally written by lead singer Joe Genaro for a two-man side project, Ornamental Wigwam, comprised of himself and David Sculthise. Genaro brought the song to The Dead Milkmen wondering if they could perform it as a group; it worked, and went on to become the band's single most well known song.
The song became something of an anthem for punk culture devotees, and gained considerable airplay on MTV. It's the band's most commercially successful release, and came just shy of charting in the Billboard Hot 100.
Joe Genaro says that fans often point out a presumed error in the line "And someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox, it was California Dreamin'
." The song is, in fact, by The Mamas and Papas, not the Beach Boys. Genaro says that he was aware of this when he wrote the "Punk Rock Girl," but that the Beach Boys had recently released a popular cover version.
"Punk Rock Girl" was released on 1988's Beelzabubba, the Milkmen's fourth full length release. While the album retained the band's straightforward, crass humor, the songwriting is somewhat more sophisticated than on previous releases. "Punk Rock Girl" spurred it to become the band's best-selling album.
Some media uses of this song:
It is featured in the video game Tony Hawk's Project 8.
The music video for the song is riffed in an episode of Beavis and Butthead.
The song is briefly heard in the pilot episode for the Fox TV series, Raising Hope.
Streetlight Manifesto and Diesel Boy have both recorded popular covers of this song.