You can easily recognize me at anything that ends in con, experience, or even mania by my black zip-up hooded sweater with an unmistakable subculture caricature on the back of it, the Milo. A crude drawing of a man who embodies be yourself at ALL costs, even if it means not fitting in with the mohawk, skinny jean, spikes and tattoo crowd of punk rock. Like a lot of people in this world, I love a punk rock band called “Descendents”, but truthfully they should be bigger than they are.
On a selfish level I could name hundreds of times songs like “Sour Grapes” and “Everything Sucks” which got me through letting go of toxic situations and people in my life, but on a macro level the Descendents are the monolith for every pop-punk band to come after them (Blink 182, MXPX, Green Day, etc.). They spoke a universal language which transcended the typical punk tropes of angst and rebellion against the system. The band is about staying as young as you can for as long as you can, chicks screwing you over isn’t the end of the world, and most importantly…coffee.
They’re almost unrecognizable today from their late 70’s line up of bassist Tony Lombardo, guitarist Frank Navetta, and drummer Bill Stevenson. Today the band consists of Stevenson, bassist Karl Alvarez, guitarist Stephen Egerton, and singer Milo Aukerman as they continue to play the occasional fest and short tour. They’ve gone away and come back several times throughout their career and don’t make new music until there’s something to say. In fact, Descendents released their first album in 12 years with 2016’s Hypercaffium Spazzinate. When bands get older, in some cases that luster isn’t so shiny, or the energy has been replaced by age and taxes. Hypercaffium was the opposite, it’s an album that on a musical level kicked my a** and proved how timeless Descendents are.
The music is something anyone can tell you about but won’t understand until you listen for yourself. Words like melodic, hardcore and hyper all get thrown around when it comes to describing the sound fulminating from this quartet. In a way, they’re all true. Songs like “Get the Time” and “Thank You” have a rock ballad unity producing a melody on the same level as anything from Zepplin or The Beatles. In touch with the emotion of punk by its heavy lightning fast riffs were extremely short tracks like “Coffee Mug”.
Not to be juvenile all the time, the Descendents could also get into heavy subjects. It wasn’t always about stopping a war or ever about a crumbling society. Most often, their songs were about girls you loved or hated and sometimes loved to hate. “Clean Sheets”, “Nothing With You”, “She Don’t Care” alone cover the spectrum of putting any relationship or a failed crush in perspective. Then there’s “One More Day”, a song written by drummer Bill Stevenson about gaining perspective on the loss of his father. Similar to a song like the Bowie classic Space Oddity, Stevenson’s words unfold a story. Only this one is a heartbreaking tale about finding meaning in family, even if it’s one you’d never see on TV.
Then… there’s one of the all time best albums ever made.
Releasing the year I was born, Milo Goes To College is constantly named in SPIN and Rolling Stone top album lists. For good reason. I won’t pretend to be a professional music critic, there are people far better qualified. To me, the album is perfect from start to finish. It has a sound that can’t ever be replicated in an age of remasters. That slight hiss between tracks, pauses of almost improvisation followed by the gnarliest band hitting you in the face with a fury and rhythm that somehow stirs a desire to push people but could also calm a hyper puppy. You hear it as your shot right out into side one as you hear Aukerman’s voice bellow “She’s been a-fuckin’ with my brain” and side one somehow ends in a Beach Boys harmony with “Catalina”. Not to mention the records B side has just as much pop and punch. If Milo Goes To College had been made in the last big boom period for the record companies, this band would have been millionaires. The fact that James Gunn has never put them in a GOTG soundtrack means they still need us to talk about the music.
The Descendents are the right way to go from being a stupid derp kid to growing up without actually growing up. They’re for people who get lumped into a subculture they don’t actually fit in with, anyone who’s ever admitted to themselves they weren’t cool, and above all else anyone who loves good music.
If you don’t believe me, ask someone like Steve Niles about the Descendents.
Sadly, there’s no new album to talk about or even a secret show. What you read was about making a stand to the ever increasing toxic nature of fandom in 2018. As part of the fandom culture, we often compete with one another in terms of I like this more than you do or I was here first. There’s none of that with me. I was born well after this band burst onto the scene and made a record, my first time hearing their music was on the old Rodney on the Roq weekend show on KROQ in Los Angeles in the mid-90’s. I couldn’t even pretend to be the first or biggest fan of the Descendents. Truth is I just think you guys should check them out for yourself and decide.
The point is, every journalist, blogger, Youtuber, tweeter, commenter taking up bandwidth on the Internet has a responsibility to push the things they love for the right reasons. When it comes to non-mainstream comics, independent video games, wrestling, or even a band of sweaty dudes who love to sing about Wienerschnitzel, they all need us to evangelize for them. Instead of asking someone 1000 exam questions when they boast the same fandoms as you, why not figure out a way to get more people to love it? Instead of building walls around it.
We’ll get back to reviewing, editorializing, and talking about the current state of things outside of comics. I just wanted to follow a lesson from the Descendents and talk about something that mattered, even if it only matters to me.
If you’ve enjoyed any of the Descendents songs, add em to your Spotify playlist and check out the Filmage documentary on various streaming services.