The Descendents Rising Again to Revisit Their Angst
Fourteen years have passed since the South Bay natives in the Descendents hammered out their masterpiece of caffeine-fueled pop-punk on the seminal album “Milo Goes to College.”
Today, Milo is still in college: A biochemist with a full-fledged PhD, Descendents singer Milo Aukerman is doing post-doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin.
But Aukerman has temporarily shelved his studies to rejoin his former bandmates. Together and touring for the first time in almost a decade, the band conjured more spazzy, short-burst songs on its new Epitaph Records release, “Everything Sucks,” and is preparing to open a seven-night stand tonight at the Whisky, its old stamping grounds.
Speaking by telephone from Madison, Wis., between laboratory duties, Aukerman says that being in a punk band again is exciting, if somewhat disconcerting.
“I have to go out and do shows and then I have to do my science experiments,” he says. “It’s a little weird, but I needed an outlet for my frustrations.”
Formed in 1978, the Descendents mixed uncut angst with super-revved melodies for the landmark L.A. punk label SST. Notorious for its fishing escapades, its devotion to the ever-trustworthy coffee buzz and its paeans to fast-food outlets (“Weinerschnitzel”) and elusive girls (“Kabuki Girl”), the band carved out a niche as nerdy, low-rent everypunks.
Aukerman left for graduate school in 1991 and the three remaining members relocated to Colorado to form All, a group with a Descendents-like sound. Now that the Descendents are back together, drummer and lyricist Bill Stevenson, talking by telephone from Colorado, says that his two groups will coexist “like a two-headed baby.”
“Everything Sucks” sprang from the everyday grind of Aukerman’s scientific life and his continuing friendship with Stevenson, bass player Karl Alvarez and guitarist Stephen Egerton. The album revisits the old Descendents’ milieu: a tuneful, full-frontal assault that makes its brawling, high-speed guitar rock sound like an angry bully backing up Aukerman’s nervy, teed-off underdog.
Originally setting its sights on a small, intimate homecoming, the band booked two nights at the Whisky. Both shows sold out, and the group eventually added five more to pack the club for a solid week.
Despite the current pop-punk craze and the band’s local appeal, Stevenson was shocked by the response, but moving to a larger concert hall didn’t feel right. “We were underestimating our home-court advantage,” he says. “But we like to play smaller clubs anyway.”
Aukerman says the Whisky carries a historical novelty: In its early days, the band threw coffee bashes there, handing out plastic mugs--now a must-have collectors’ item for any self-respecting local punk--and installing a coffee urn at the entrance to provide free caffeine highs.
But Aukerman doesn’t want to capitalize on the outfit’s nostalgia factor. “The material’s all new and the other guys have been playing all along,” he says. “I’ve just inserted myself.”
And please don’t mention the ill-fated Sex Pistols reunion. “It’s not a reunion,” Aukerman says. “We like to call it a mutation.”
* The Descendents play tonight through Monday at the Whisky, 8 p.m. Sold out. $10. (310) 535-0579.