Friday, March 25, 2011

We Are the Proud, the Few, Descendents

For my first post, I thought it'd be appropriate to write about the Descendents. Their song "Cheer" is one of my favorite songs and even went as far as to name my blog after some of the lyrics from that song.

A lot of people like the Descendents, so saying that they're one of my favorite bands might not mean much to anyone who randomly finds their way upon this blog, but they do really mean a lot to me. I started listening to them sometime between my junior and senior years of high school... I don't really remember much, but I do remember listening to the Fat EP and Milo Goes to College and finding it amazing. If you've ever read anything about the band, then you already know how instead of singing about hating politicians and various foreign affairs, they chose to sing about girls and parents and even fishing, so I won't go into that too much.  Every band member (throughout their career they've had several guitarists and bassists) is also a very skilled musician; something that is not necessarily a requirement to be in a punk band (I would know- I'm pretty bad).

Anyway, what really draws me to the Descendents is their ability to easily transition between hard-hitting, aggressive songs to tunes that are much more melodic in both vocal and instrumental performance. Lyrical content is also something that I can more easily relate to because I know a lot more about feeling rejected by the opposite sex than I do about what it was like to live during Reagan's presidency. I know that they almost single-handedly influenced wave upon wave of terrible sounding pop punk bands, but that doesn't make their music any worse.

I feel like I should also acknowledge ALL in this post. When the Descendents split up a second time due to Milo going to back to school (I believe that was the case anyway, I do know he ended up getting a doctorate in biochemistry), they decided to reform with a new singer under a new name. Thus, the band ALL (named after the fourth Descendents album) was born. ALL and the Descendents are pretty similar in sound (for obvious reasons) and while ALL is a great band, I still find myself preferring the Descendents over them. Anyway, maybe I'll do a post on ALL in the future, but I just wanted to get that out there now.

I always have it in my head that I can write about my favorite bands in a way that will make people want to check them out, but I'm so self critical that once I write something that it sounds terrible. So I'm also going to make a list of my ten favorite songs and link them to YouTube videos in order to give a much better idea of what they sound like:

(it's hard to narrow it down to ten, so I approximated)

10. I Like Food - Fat EP - 1981
This 17 second rush was one of my first introductions to the band, and even though I think they have much better songs I still think it's a classic. This is what the Descendents were about: fast songs with silly subjects. This is only part of the beginning though, they got much better than this.

09. Bikeage - Milo Goes to College - 1982
This is still one of their earlier songs, but it's a nice reflection of how the band members weren't afraid to go a catchier route than their peers. Even the lyrics show that there's more to this band that going fishing and being rejected by the cool kids.

08. Christmas Vacation - I Don't Want to Grow Up - 1985
I think it was when I heard this song that I began to really enjoy a lot of the band's post-Milo Goes to College work. It shows a more "mature" (I hate using that word to describe music) side of the Descendents' songwriting, showing off a much more melodic sound and introspective lyrics. 

07. Thank You - Everything Sucks - 1995
I don't actually know who this song is about, but I'm sure as hell that every single Descendents fan feels this way about them.

06. M-16 - Milo Goes to College - 1981
Here's another sonic attack. I really love how frantic it gets while still resembling a conventional song rather than some sort of noise art.

05. MyAge - Milo Goes to College - 1981
The first track on the seminal Milo Goes to College. It sets the tone for pretty much the entire record and the only slow parts are the seconds in between each track. Also, listen to that drumming. Bill Stevenson is one of the best (punk) drummers out there.

04. Nothing With You - Cool to Be You - 2004
This is one of my favorite love songs. It also describes some of my favorite things to do ever. The title makes it sound like kind of a nihilistic tune, but it's actually a really sweet song. (also, sorry that it's a fan-made video... but I guess it helps illustrate the point of the song)

03. Cheer - Enjoy! - 1986
Enjoy! is kind of a weird album. It's got some great tracks, but it's also made up of tracks in which the band members just take turns farting into a microphone. Cheer is, in my opinion, one of the best songs the band has ever written. It's got a solid rhythm, sing-along chorus, and lyrics that (errr...) cheer me up. It isn't the happiest song they've written, but it's a good one to listen to when I need to be taken out of a bad mood because it shines some hope out there that someone can come along and make things better.

02. Silly Girl - I Don't Want to Grow Up - 1985
By far their best song about a girl. I don't think I know a Descendents fan alive who wouldn't put this on a mixtape/CD/playlist for a girl they fancied.

01. I'm Not a Loser - Milo Goes to College - 1981
I know I just praised Cheer and Silly Girl a whole lot for being some of the band's best songs, but this one is at the top of the teen angst list.

There are a lot of songs that I left off this list, but if I had included them all it would've just been way too long. If you liked any of these songs, I would recommend finding a way of getting yourself a copy of Somery, which acts sort of a "best-of" from their first four albums (Milo Goes to College, I Don't Want to Grow Up, Enjoy! and 1987's ALL, which did not get any representation on this list and I feel badly about). You also can't go wrong with just getting Milo Goes to College or I Don't Want to Grow Up. Or just get them all, there's only six (plus 3 live albums).

They've gone on a number of hiatuses, but as of this writing they are currently playing shows sporadically and one can only hope that they decide to play a couple of East Coast shows so I can go and see them.

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