The track "Somethin' to Dü" is a reference to the band Hüsker Dü, contemporaries of The Replacements and their Saint Paul counterparts. The track "Johnny's Gonna Die" is a reference to influential guitarist Johnny Thunders of the Heartbreakers and New York Dolls. The song refers to his increased heroin addiction and resultant sloppy live performances. Thunders died, possibly of drug-related causes, in 1991.
Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash was released on August 25, 1981 by the independent record label Twin/Tone Records. The song "I'm In Trouble" was released as a single on August 7, 1981, containing an outtake, "If Only You Were Lonely", as its B-side. The album was remastered and reissued by Rhino Entertainment on April 22, 2008, with 13 additional tracks.
Retrospectively, AllMusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine considered Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash to be "one of the best LPs the entire scene produced in the early '80s." In a very positive review, Punknews.org praised the album for being different from its counterparts of the hardcore punk scene, stating that the album "never sacrificed its pop appeal for throat-searing screams and whiplash speed."