photo manipulation by nacrowe
seriously, how cool is it that someone finally made a documentary about the DESCENDENTS?
FILMAGE: THE STORY OF DESCENDENTS/ALL (ROGUE ELEPHANT, 2014) is basically a celebration of the music and legacy of legendary HARDCORE band DESCENDENTS and their fraternal twin band ALL. the common link between the two is drummer BILL STEVENSON who famously also was a member of BLACK FLAG in the early 1980s, as has also moonlighted as an in-demand producer over the past few years that has overseen albums by everyone from RISE AGAINST, THE LEMONHEADS and LAGWAGON to A DAY TO REMEMBER.
the film can be seen as a love letter from the PUNK ROCK community to a band largely credited with establishing the POP PUNK genre with its pummeling musicianship and anti-rock star frontman, the iconic MILO AUKERMAN, who sang songs that had melody and lovesick lyrics about not measuring up in high school. with peers like KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), MIKE WATT (MINUTEMEN), BRIAN BAKER (MINOR THREAT / BAD RELIGION), GREG GRAFFIN (BAD RELIGION), BRETT GUREWITZ (BAD RELIGION), KIM SHATTUCK (THE MUFFS), DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA / FOO FIGHTERS) and subsequent bands they influenced like MARK HOPPUS (BLINK 182), FAT MIKE (NOFX), JIM LINDBERG (PENNYWISE), MIKE HERRERA (MXPX), TIM MICIIRATH (RISE AGAINST), TREVER KEITH (FACE TO FACE) and JOEY CAPE (LAGWAGON) all making enthusiastic appearances and giving praise about this criminally underrated band, it feels almost like THE SMITHS-level adulation. its touching.
what i found most interesting in this documentary was how it covered the split personality of DESCENDENTS with their counterpart ALL, which was essentially the same band without MILO. this was amicable as MILO left to pursue a doctorate and career as a researcher in MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. how PUNK ROCK is that? but his departure left a void that couldnt be filled by subsequent gifted singers that played with ALL. the band never got the critical recognition or fan adulation as the DESCENDENTS. DAVE GROHL was the perfect person to speak about this dilemma. famously he lived through it when establishing FOO FIGHTERS in the wake of the swift and brutally public demise of NIRVANA. choosing to start a new band in the wake of a successful band can only be done for the love of the music he argues. FOO FIGHTERS were financially successful, ALL not so much. but their friendship and brotherhood is intact and the PUNK ROCK community has continued to support them.
when i first heard the DESCENDENTS in high school i was immediately taken with how raw and almost uncomfortably exposed the lyrics were and how that contrasted with the aggressive nature of the music. they were HARDCORE band that went against any macho posturing. they sang about food and bathroom humor as well as being dumped; all with a melody. very distinctive. i had NERF HERDER as well in high school but to me it seemed more a straightforward POP PUNK record in the vein of many other bands. there was no tension or angst, just competent songs sung well without much fanfare or identity.
the lesson of STEVENSON's example, and in essence he is the central figure in this film, is to be passionate about who you do and go for it. despite being awkward and overweight and dorky. use that to your advantage. be an outsider. be original. DESCENDENTS are originals and that is why they continue to be celebrated.