Ah, to be a punk rock fan in California during the 80s. Being able to see bands like Bad Religion, The Vandals, NOFX, Social Distortion and Guttermouth, all just starting out, playing in tiny clubs. I probably wouldn’t have been cool enough to know they existed in those early years. Even if I was, it would have been hard to get into those sorts of clubs when I was 6 or 7 years old. But that doesn’t mean I can’t nostalgically remember a scene I was never even a part thorugh rose coloured glasses.
The bands listed above probably only prove my own surface level appreciation for the big bands who made it through to main stream success, which is why I know I need to dig deeper. With no better reason than the fact that I have often seen NOFX’s Fat Mike wear a shirt emblazoned with this band’s iconic logo, I decided to listen to The Descendants’ 1982 outing, Milo Goes to College.
Early on, Parents is a great example of what I associate with this time, this region and this version of punk rock. When vocalist Milo drops a line like, “Parents, why don’t they shut up”, it’s a kind of ill-informed angst and self-unaware naiveté that only makes it more endearing more than 30 years later. Or is it so self-unaware? Because when they returned to a similar snot nosed, middle finger flip for When I Get Old on their album Everything Sucks almost 15 years later, it makes me think there was more deliberate irony in Parents then I initially expected.
As amateur and aggressive as Milo Goes to College is, there’s no denying that there was a more accomplished band waiting to happen. Bikeage and Jean is Dead show the poppier melodies were always inevitable. By slowing things a down a little, it also shows the musical ability of the band, smothered by the speed of so many of the other songs.
15 songs in 30 minutes is a good indicator of what to expect from Milo Goes to College. Over all, the production is exactly what you’d expect from a fledgling punk band of the time. Somehow completely locked to its time of recording, yet completely timeless and vibrant all these decades later. It’s very DIY, very raw, very tinny and you can hear every band member almost figuring it out as they go along. And all off of that is what makesthis albumreally, really great.