Descendents: Pioneers of pop punk with a nerdy twist

The Descendents have been around for quite a while, and helped create pop punk
2022 Riot Fest
2022 Riot Fest / Daniel Boczarski/GettyImages

Descendents is a highly influential American punk rock band that was formed in Manhattan Beach, California, in 1977. The band's lineup has seen some changes over the years, but its core members have included Milo Aukerman (vocals), Bill Stevenson (drums), Karl Alvarez (bass), and Stephen Egerton (guitar). The band is known for their fast-paced, melodic punk sound, witty and often humorous lyrics, and a significant influence on the development of pop punk and skate punk genres (or, of course, you could just call them "punk rock"). Like a lot of punk, their music often targets themes such as adolescence, relationships, and suburban life.

Descendents and the nerd aesthetic?

One of the defining aspects of Descendents is the incorporation of a "nerdy" or intellectual image into their music and lyrics. Milo Aukerman, the band's lead vocalist, is a biochemist with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and has worked in the field of molecular biology when not performing with the band. To be fair, though, other bands have people with advanced degress or interesting achievements; Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin is also an evolutionary biologist, The Offspring's Dexter Holland has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, Joe Escalante of The Vandals was a TV executive for CBS, etc.).

Still, Descendents' unique blend of punk rock attitude and scientific knowledge has contributed to their distinct identity in the punk scene (though Aukerman's work for DuPont is like begging to be accused of "selling out," and not only within the punk community but among any who feel iffy about historically Nazi-affiliated companies). They are also nerdy enough to have been highlighted by PBS.

Notable albums by Descendents

Some of their most notable albums include Milo Goes to College (1982), I Don't Want to Grow Up (1985), All (1987), Everything Sucks (1996), and Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016). Their introductory album, Milo Goes to College, is considered a classic in the punk rock genre and has had a lasting influence on subsequent generations of punk rock bands. Descendents continue to tour and release new music, maintaining a dedicated fanbase and influencing a new wave of punk rock bands (for example, sometimes-Descendents bassist Tony Lombardo significantly influenced Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus...though one hopes they wouldn't care to take credit for The Offspring's “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).”

Where to put Descendents in a playlist?

Descendents have influenced many punk bands. If you wish to add them to a playlist, they might fit in with such bands including Green Day, The Offspring, Bad Religion, New Model Army, Jawbox, Dropkick Murphys (or, if you really want to get loose, add bands like Circle Takes the Square, and The Bangles). Though they are no longer in "the underground punk scene," they were nevertheless pioneers of the pop punk form, and you pretty much have to respect any band that's influential in some way, to some extent.

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