Tuesday, October 14, 2008

44 Greatest Albums: The Descendents - 'Milo Goes To College'

In 1982 The Descendents put out their first full length record, 'Milo Goes To College'. Anyone who was familiar with the band, and there were several hundred of us across the nation, knew that the title of the album was not code of any kind. Milo Aukerman was their lead singer and he had gone off to college. To us they were already superstars. Their debut album announced that they were no longer really a band thanks to higher education.

If you heard The Descendents right now you might not think twice about them. But in this case context is everything. Hardcore punk music was rapidly transforming the music business against its will. Much like rap, it began to succeed in spite of the rigorous attempts of those in charge of mass media to squelch it. Most of the hardcore music was angry, political, naive, and boring. We listened to that section of the genre almost dutifully. But The Descendents were LIKE US. So like us that one of them was going to college. They weren't Wham! They weren't The Thompson Twins. The music they made that we loved so much was not lucrative enough for Milo to abandon his education.

There are 15 songs on the album, none of which clock in at longer than 2 minutes 14 seconds. I don't even know if I should bother singling anything out. This album is like a time machine for me, instantly dropping me back into my buddy Tom's room. We probably walked to his house from high school. We might have gone into a record store. We might have bought sodas at the 7/11. When we got to his house we rummaged through the cupboards and found something to eat.

We turned on his amplifier, he plugged his guitar in and we started playing the songs we wrote. We were no different from The Descendents who we probably just listened to. Tom's Mom would shout up to us and tell us to turn it down. So we would. Then we'd probably do our homework.

Justin would show up and we would bust each others balls mercilessly. Someone would get their feelings hurt, usually me. Feathers would be ruffled and then smoothed somehow without any real discussion. We longed for booze and weed. We lusted after chicks. We talked sports. We talked smack.

In the background Milo would be singing 'Suburban Home'. California pop run through a wood chipper. Imagine The Ramones are supposed to do a show in a garage that opens out onto Venice Beach. Their equipment is all set up and ready to go. But The Ramones can't do the show! The Beach Boys circa 1964 stroll up to the stage and offer their services. They play their set without changing the amplification at all.

This might capture the spirit of The Descendents. Throw in a dash of potty humor, outsider resentment, teenage hormones and you've got quite a brew.

I just came here from Facebook. If The Descendents happened today they'd have a myspace or facebook page 2 days after they got together. By the time I heard about them in 1984, Milo had already completed his freshman year.

I only wish they'd recorded the sequel. 'Milo Completes Grad School'. Which he did.

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