With that tongue-in-cheek battle cry, the nerdsome foursome declared their war against mediocrity. Fueled by the omni-ambitious doctrine of ALL (not ALL the band… that comes later the concept, based on the TOTAL EXTENT, the peak of pinnacles) and a series of caffeine binges, the essences
of punk and pop were percolated together in a way that has yet to be recreated, though many have died trying. Ranks of sympathetic adolescents, previously excluded from the ferocious world of punk rock, followed the sound. They boldly strapped on their glasses, wiped their noses on their sleeves, and launched into the slam pit chanting the DESCENDENTS’ refrain “I’m not a loser” like a mantra.
In 1978 the DESCENDENTS formed under their common credo of fishing, girls and velocity. Existing briefly as a power trio, the LA-based group released the 7" single Ride The Wild before recruiting a certain crop-haired honors class geek cum heartthrob (enter Milo Aukerman, he of the ubiquitous album illustrations) on vocals. They released the Fat EP in 1981, the only record in the DESCENDENTS’ expansive catalog that does not contain a single love song. The quintessential DESCENDENTS album, Milo Goes To College, hit local record stores in 1982. Its fusion of catchy melodies with raw, spastic energy (henceforward known as “power pop”, “melodic hardcore”, or the ever popular “pop punk”) caused the Los Angeles Times to write, “perfect for the little guy who was ever called a nerd and never got the girl. The Chain Saw pop combined with earthy humor conveys what is often an inarticulate rage.”
In 1982, Milo was seduced by the fast-track lifestyle of biochemistry and left for college. Bill Stevenson enrolled as full-time drummer with Redondo Beach punk founders Black Flag on a global mission to play every town with electricity. For two lean years, the world was without DESCENDENTS. In 1985, Milo and Bill returned to again unleash the roar of the over-stimulated, lovelorn dweeb. The band released the I Don’t Want To Grow Up LP, replete with lots of mushy “girl songs”. Rigorous touring ensued. 1986’s Enjoy! LP again broke new ground, not only as an archetype for the pop-punk genre, but more importantly, as the first recording to make musical use of high fidelity stereophonic flatulence. Now available in full digital clarity!
Each new DESCENDENTS record pushed further into the outer envelope of ALLness: faster, stronger, better. The guitar/bass tandem of Stephen Egerton and Karl Alvarez had what music teachers and Hit Parade magazine refer to as “killer chops”; that is to say, they wailed. In 1987, the band released its magnum opus ALL album, including the “ALL-o-Gistics”, a set of commandments useful in achieving ALL. Rigorous touring ensued once more. Two raging live albums were recorded, Liveage and Hallraker. The DESCENDENTS became legendary on the underground all-ages circuit, but continued to fall below the mainstream radar. In case the ‘80s are either a blur or a playground memory, here are a few highlights: Reaganomics, Rubik’s Cube, Members Only jackets, Duran Duran and Motley Crue. MTV and radio were clogged with glam metal and dance-y new wave, while punk rock remained a strictly volunteer proposition. The DESCENDENTS were self-managed, and produced their own albums on a shoestring budget.
At this point, it was an old jones for biochemistry that once again lured Milo away from the band. In 1987, he hung up his microphone cord to pursue further education. But much questing was left to do in pursuit of ALLness; they’d come too far to turn back. Bill, Karl and Stephen re-christened their entity under a new name, enlisted ex-Dag Nasty vocalist Dave Smalley, and renewed the eternal crusade. The only name that fit, of course, was ALL. ALL blazed onward, releasing eight amazing (and still self-produced) albums between 1988 and 1995. Currently fronted by lead singer Chad Price, the ALL touring machine left showed no continent mercy, spreading the tenets of ALL while introducing new kids to the DESCENDENTS legacy. The legend continued to grow, and folks were buying more ALL and DESCENDENTS records than ever.
On an undisclosed date in 1996, deemed by some “Science’s finest hour”, Milo hung up his lab coat and the DESCENDENTS began work on a new LP. Produced by Bill and Stephen at the band’s own studio in Ft. Collins, Colorado (aptly dubbed The Blasting Room), Everything Sucks picks up exactly where the DESCENDENTS left off. Milo and the boys were stronger than ever. Once more, rigorous touring ensued. And once more, with another triumphant chapter in the band’s history penned in the books, Milo returned to Beakerdom in the ceaseless pursuit of better living through chemistry.
ALL resumed, picking up the slack with two new full-lengths, a greatest hits (?!) compilation, a live album, and countless months on the road bringing it live to the people. Would the world see another DESCENDENTS record? Had we finally lost Milo to the world of microscopes and Bunsen burners? Years of idle speculation and rumors abounded, and with only a handful of live dates in more than half a decade to prove otherwise, the world quietly bemoaned the loss of the DESCENDENTS.
Fans, rejoice. Fast forward to 2004, and lo and behold, the DESCENDENTS are back in the saddle with two new efforts slated for the release in the early part of next year, an EP, and a bona fide LP of all new material on Fat Wreck Chords. Punk is now a household name, and the ubiquitous “girl song” milieu infests the airwaves. Will the DESCENDENTS reclaim their title as kings of the lovelorn anthem? Only time will tell, but this much is certain: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the DESCENDENTS must go to sleep with flushed cheeks every night of the week.
Tickets: $31.50 ADV / $35 DOS