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Everything Sucks Doesn't

Like the Fastbacks, their peers in Seattle, the Descendents were

brandishing what would eventually be called pop punk about 15

years before the world at large caught on to Green Day. But

where the Fastbacks have continually returned from side projects

to maintain their home base band, the Descendents called it quits

in 1987 when singer Milo Aukerman decided to pursue a Ph.D in

biochemistry...sort of. Three-quarters of the band didn't call

it quits, they just enlisted a new vocalist, changed their name

to All, and released nine albums (three more than are in the

Descendents' original catalog). All the while, Milo stayed in

touch with his former bandmates, and earlier this year when he

got the itch to start penning some songs again, he called his

friends. One song led to another, All vocalist Chad Price took a

temporary breather, and Everything Sucks was born. In the

meantime, All jumped from Interscope to Epitaph, and now the two

bands have a joint deal for several albums. Suffice it to say

now that five musicians make up two different bands of four guys

each, and everyone's happy.

As well they should be, because Everything Sucks is a

great punk rock album. It does stumble on few songs that are

still hardcore after all these years, but otherwise,

these songs employ the band's original formula of matching real

life joys, trials, and observations with candy-coated melodies,

only this time to greater success than before. Just as the

members-minus-Milo had ten years to work on their punk pop chops,

they've also had a decade more of living from which to cull their

experiences. Everything Sucks abandons the band's earlier

experiments in bathroom humor as a subject for revisitation in

favor of thoughtful punk meditations on growing up, maintaining

relationships, and finding fulfillment.

The Descendents are blessed by having more than one good

songwriter. In fact, all four members turned in solid numbers

for Everything Sucks. Milo's songwriting suffered nary a

bit during his years in the lab; his best tune, "We," could be a

Green Day song. "This Place" details his sometimes

dissatisfaction with a life of science and his reason for

returning to songwriting.

But the Descendents' greatest songwriting talents lie with

drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez. On "She Loves

Me," Stevenson turns in an O. Henry slant on pop punk love. The

melody and chorus lead the listener to believe that this is

another happy go lucky boy gets girl situation, only to find out

that the singer doesn't want to be loved by her and is in fact

tormented by the relationship.

Alvarez also contributes several great songs ("I'm the One," "I

Won't Let Me," "Thank You"), but the album's best track is an

Stevenson-Alvarez joint composition called "When I Get Old." The

number is virtually a punk rock rewrite of the Beach Boy's "When

I Grow Up (To Be a Man)," though Stevenson says he didn't

conscientiously conceive the song as such. Nonetheless a

comparison between the two songs is worth an article itself: two

bands--both pop, both California--from different decades take on

impending maturity. In 1964, Brian Wilson wondered what it would

be like to actively become something, a man, an adult. Thirty

years later, Alvarez and Stevenson ponder whether they can

prevent themselves from passively deteriorating into something,

again, an adult. In the end, both songs revolve around the task

maintaining self-respect with age. Despite its pessimistic

worrying, the Descendents' song asks hopefully, "Will I do myself

proud?"

In the tradition of their first record Milo Goes to

College, the Descendents surely must have considered calling

this disc Milo Comes Home. If they had, all we could say

is, "Welcome back. Why don't you guys stay awhile?" Here's to

hoping they will.

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