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Fueled by "rejection, food, coffee, girls, fishing and food," the Descendents sprang up during the halcyon days of the Los Angeles punk scene. Fusing the blind rage of hardcore with an unexpectedly wry, self-deprecating wit and a strong melodic sensibility that set them distinctly apart from their West Coast brethren, they gradually emerged as one of the most enduring and adored punk bands of their time. While the band seemingly celebrated their own immaturity in their most iconic music, they also found a way to grow up and continue to make music that pleased themselves and their fans well past 2020. 1982's Milo Goes to College was their first and most enduring masterpiece, 2004's Cool to be You was a strong, lively reunion effort, and 2021's 9th & Walnut looked back to their earliest days, revisiting a handful of forgotten songs. Formed in 1979, the Descendents' first lineup consisted of vocalist/guitarist Frank Navetta, vocalist/bassist Tony Lombardo, and drummer Bill Stevenson; initially sporting an edgy power pop sound inspired by the Buzzcocks, the group issued a debut single, "Ride the Wild," and then promptly vanished from sight. When the Descendents resurfaced in 1981, they were a four-piece fronted by vocalist Milo Auckerman, a beloved figure within the hardcore community who infused the group's identity with both unmitigated teen angst and a healthy dose of goofball humor. Amid a relentless, caffeine-powered touring schedule, the Descendents found time to record the 1981 EP Fat, a collection spotlighting both Auckerman's affection for fast food ("Weinerschnitzel," "I Like Food") and distaste for parental guidance ("My Dad Sucks"). A year later, the group issued its debut LP, Milo Goes to College; despite the considerable levity of tracks like "Bikeage" and "Suburban Home," the title was no joke -- Auckerman was indeed headed off to study biochemistry, and when Stevenson joined the ranks of Black Flag, the Descendents went on sabbatical. In 1985, the group re-formed, with SWA alum Ray Cooper replacing Navetta on guitar; after the release of the more pop-flavored album I Don't Want to Grow Up, ex-Anti bassist Doug Carrion assumed Lombardo's duties. A sunnier perspective informed 1986's Enjoy!, as evidenced by the inclusion of a cover of the Beach Boys' "Wendy," but after 1987's All, the group split again; after Stevenson formed a new group, also dubbed All, the only Descendents products to appear for a number of years were a pair of live releases, 1987's Liveage! and 1989's Hallraker. Somewhat surprisingly, Auckerman and Stevenson re-formed the Descendents in 1996 with All bassist Karl Alvarez and guitarist Stephen Egerton; in addition to mounting a tour, the group recorded a new album, Everything Sucks. Following the tour, Auckerman once again returned to his life in the chem lab until 2004 when the guys were back with two new releases, both issued on Fat Wreck -- February brought the EP 'Merican, and the full-length Cool to Be You followed a month later. For the following decade, they would remain relatively quiet, save for a few significant events. In 2008, founding guitarist Frank Navetta unexpectedly passed away. The band also reunited for a few gigs in 2010, but it wasn't permanent. In 2013, filmmakers Matt Riggle and Deedle LaCour premiered Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL, which played at a number of major film festivals before it became available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as a number of streaming services. The Descendents returned in 2016 with Hypercaffium Spazzinate, their first new studio material in 12 years. That same year, Auckerman was laid off from his job in chemistry and chose to return to music full time. As the Descendents boosted their touring commitments, in April 2017 they issued a song, "Who We Are," that spoke out against the racial and political divide that America experienced after the election of President Donald Trump. Two more politically oriented songs, "On You" and "Hindsight 2020," were issued during the 2020 presidential campaign. That same year, the band began reworking material recorded in 2002 with Bill Stevenson, Frank Navetta, and Tony Lombardo, in which they put to tape fifteen songs they had written between in 1980 but had never released. With Auckerman recording new vocal tracks for the material, these unique recordings from the "classic" Descendents lineup were issued by Epitaph Records in July 2021 on the LP 9th & Walnut, named for the address of their first rehearsal space.
© Mark Deming /TiVo


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