Though it seems they perennially garner fewer accolades than their Cali cohorts Black Flag and the Minutemen, coffee-fueled Los Angelinos the Descendents’ full-length debut Milo Goes to College stands as one of the ‘80s indispensable punk documents. Its grooves are teeming with furious catchiness and what it lacks in good manners it more than makes up for in sheer gusto.
I’ve fond memories of and considerable good will for the Descendents, namely the incarnations of the group that recorded up to and including the Enjoy! LP, but must say that from my viewpoint they can be easily underrated. Or maybe more appropriately, they often slip through the cracks, in large part due to the non-flash nature of their music and image. First and foremost about focused energy, they wrote tunes that joined musical and lyrical concerns triumphantly seeking to shirk the concept of the punk as a metal-studded casualty with a tube of Testors stuck up his/her nostril.
Occasionally described as “nerd-core,” their songs tackled topics like fishing, hanging out in nature, the joys of junk food, loyalty to friends, bodily gasses, the desire to not be a fuck-up, coffee, friction between cliques, and quite frequently late-adolescent struggles with the opposite sex. Many of these concerns have been addressed by other bands, but frankly a few haven’t, and certainly not with the appealingly direct (again, focused) musicality and no-frills sincerity that basically stands as their enduring legacy.
They began in ’79 with a 45 of surfy, poppy guitar rock “Ride the Wild” b/w “It’s a Hectic World.” While a nice enough first effort, it’s unrepresentative of where they would head after the addition of lynchpin vocalist Milo Aukerman on 1981’s “Fat” EP. The six songs grooved into that disc are characterized by short, sharp blasts of youthful punk action; some are melodic, others breakneck and spastic a la Hardcore, but they all still sound worthwhile as they creep up on thirty years of existence. Additionally, they serve as the template the band would refine on their next three releases.