photo & text by nacrowe
i learned about the MANHATTAN BEACH PUNK ROCK band DESCENDENTS my freshman year of high school in 1999 when arguably their most famous acolytes in SAN DIEGO POP PUNK idols BLINK-182 were at their cultural zenith. i make that connection because there is an absolute direct connection between this band and the 80s HARDCORE scene that catapulted them and what later came to fruition in the late 80s and 90s as POP PUNK, SKATE PUNK, MELODIC HARDCORE and even POST HARDCORE a la bands like BAD RELIGION, NOFX, PENNYWISE, LAGWAGON, AT THE DRIVE-IN, RANCID, ALKALINE TRIO, GLASSJAW and, again, BLINk-182. in essence any 90s PUNK band that incorporated themes related to INTERNAL INSECURITY, PUBLIC HUMILIATION, JUVENILE HUMOR and UNREQUITED ROMANTIC AFFECTIONS as well as POP hooks basically is indebted to DESCENDENTS one way or another.
its intriguing because so many of the 80s HARDCORE bands (BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS, MINOR THREAT, etc) positioned themselves thematically and sonically against some vision of AUTHORITY, whereas with DESCENDENTS all that FRUSTRATION and pent-up AGGRESSION was pointed INWARD out their own SHORTCOMINGS and IMPERFECTIONS. for me at least that lyrical conceit is much more PIERCING, AUTHENTIC and ultimately RELATABLE. it also showcases a level of HONEST SELF-REFLECTION and SELF-ASSESSMENT that denotes a SHARP INTELLECT and PRETERNATURAL sense of EMOTIONAL INTELLIFENCE. you get the feeling on I DON'T WANT TO GROW UP (NEW ALLIANCE, 1985) tracks like "MY WORLD," "GOOD GOOD THINGS," and "SILLY GIRL" that singer MILO AUKERMAN is arguing that he is the problem and not necessarily someone else or society at large.
i feel like that SELF-AWARE impulse is the through-line between DESCENDENTS and all that followed them. that redirection of ANGER and SEXUAL FRUSTRATION at oneself and the implied IMPOTENCE at being unable to manifest meaningful change in one's life and situation is a POWERFUL and even COURAGEOUS lyrical position. for me, PUNK ROCK before DESCENDENTS was thematically all about outside CONFLICT and initiating change in one's community from an INFLEXIBLE core position of STRENGTH and STEADFAST CONVICTION. the imposing figure of HENRY ROLLINS comes to mind and his signature power stance he maintains while singing which projects not just sounds from his diaphragm but also insinuates a RESOLUTE MIND-STATE with similarly firm convictions as well. that is something to aspire to, but AUKERMAN's SELF-DOUBT is way more my speed in general. at least it feels closer to my actual lived experience.
I DON'T WANT TO GROW UP is most definitely worth checking out, regardless of your personal affinity for PUNK ROCK in all its variations and later evolutions. its just an HONEST ROCK N ROLL record that is ever RELEVANT in my experience and remains something i continually revisit. enjoy.