In comparison to the often bizarre noises emanating from the heyday of SST by the likes of the Minutemen, Black Flag, Meat Puppets, and to a lesser extent Husker Du, the Descendents were a user friendly, girls-and-growing-up punk band, writing short, playful, tight numbers from the perspective of the eternally bemused adolescent. That their version of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy” is one of the great covers of all time is no coincidence.
Singer-scientist Milo Aukerman, drummer Bill Stevenson, and a revolving crew of guitarists and bassists – most prominently and recently Stephen Egerton and Karl Alvarez – put out several smoking albums and EPs in the ’80s, including the Spot-produced Fat EP (with “My Dad Sucks,” “I Like Food” and the 8-second “Weinerschnitzel”) and Milo Goes To College (“Suburban Home,” “Bikeage,” the defiant “I’m Not a Loser”), the cream of which is delightfully collected on Somery.
Bespectacled Milo, shouting “Look out honey, I’m using biochemistry,” hung up his microphone and grabbed a Bunsen burner … after the burns healed he got to test tubing and whatnot, committing official Acts of Science as an ordained Scientist, leaving the melodic punk rock life behind. Bill, Karl and Stephen carried on as ALL, the name of the uber-philosophy the group had been developing all (no pun intended) along.
Milo took a break from science in ’96 and the Descendents reunited for Everything Sucks – he crept back to he lab only to reemerge for the splendiferous Cool to Be You, released on Fat Wreck Chords eariler this year.
Milo is still in fine adenoidal-SoCal-punk-perpetual-adolescent voice (a style he virtually invented) and the band is sharp and tight without being busy. “Mass Nerder” revels in the geek chic that the band pioneered over 20 years ago:
“Don’t got no goatee/Don’t got no tattoo/Don’t got no nose ring/Don’t want to be like you/See I’ve got these glasses/So I’ll never be cool/Always get my ass kicked/When I get to school”
And yet revenge is his!
“Gonna kick their asses in class/Gonna get good grades”
“Nothing With You,” despite the ominous implications of the title, is actually a sweet love song – he digs her so much that doing nothing is enough, “Because nothing’s only fun/When you’re there.”
And Milo still has “Dreams”: “My mind is a dream-filled balloon/Dripping dreams into my shoes.”
The tone is notably different on Alvarez tunes (personal and political resentment), and Stevenson (“uh, we gotta grow up, man”), but with the tunes poppy punky and the vibe “happy to be here,” uh, no we really don’t have to grow up.