Led by self-proclaimed nerd and Biochemistry PhD Milo Aukerman, the band weaved trellises of Surf Pop melody into its power-chord constructions, reflecting the repressed sentiment of a kid who feels powerlessly stuck at the bottom high school’s social hierarchy, much less ready to overthrow America’s established class system. The beautifully sarcastic “Suburban Home” — exposing the irony that countercultural teenagers largely come from and often return to the upper middle class — feels as fresh today as it did on Descendents’ 1982 debut LP Milo Goes to College, pairing growled verses with a breezy chorus that would’ve make The Beach Boys proud.
Thirty-four years and a handful of breakups and reformations later, Aukerman announced in 2016 that he was returning to music full-time after being laid off from his post at DuPont Industrial Biosciences.
“Music’s always been my release from the drudgeries of my normal job,” he told Spin magazine. “When my normal job was exciting, that’s when I was least interested in pursuing music. But there have been times when my job has been less and less creative, and then I’d search for something else to use as that outlet.”
Over the past two years, Descendents have released a smattering of new material, including a full-length record titled Hypercaffium Spazzinate, named for their universal addiction to coffee. The recent output sounds like a more polished reboot of the old stuff — decidedly more grown up, but no less geeky. There are the obligatory ruminations on aging, songs about the overprescription of ADHD medication and a more health-conscious sequel to the 1981 single “I Like Food.”
What hasn’t changed, though, is Descendents’ incisive, self-aware sense of humor, propelled by limitless (presumably caffeinated) energy. Don’t take my word for it, though. Track down a copy of the band’s 1987 Liveage! compilation, which somehow sounds tighter and more crisp than their studio material. Descendents are best heard in action.