The Descendents are the best band ever, so it comes as no surprise the South Bay group's blend of melodious, angst-fueled lyrics with open-chord surf riffs and power-chord aggression has influenced a handful of other acts since the early 1980s.
Some of these artists picked up where the Descendents left off, while others miss the mark completely. But for every Strung Out, there's the Lemonheads. In gambling terms, that's what we call a push.
Here, for your reading pleasure, are a few of both.
The most obvious Descendents-influenced band is ALL, comprised of Descendents members Stephen Egerton (guitar), Karl Alvarez (bass) and Bill Stevenson (drums). Along with singers Dave Smalley, Scott Reynolds and Chad Price (this reporter's favorite of the three), ALL took the pop-punk formula created by the Descendents and tweeked it just enough to make it new.
Songs such as "She's My Ex," "Fool" and "Original Me" fit effortlessly into any Descendents set list (and often are performed when Aukerman is on the mic), while the more abstract "Birds" and "Paper Tiger" show the instrumentalists breaking free from punk's three-chord limitations for a sound that borrows as much from prog rock as it does the Ramones.
ALL aren't nearly as popular as the Descendents, which really is a bummer because they are a great band in their own right. The problem is, the Descendents are part of SoCal punk lore, and ALL isn't. They don't help themselves much in this area, either, as the group are
almost certain to play a handful of Descendents songs during their shows, and wouldn't ya know it? These are the tunes the kids go crazy for. Perhaps drawing a line in the sand might have helped ALL create a separate identity from their previous group, but it's far too late for that.
Okay, in terms of musical influence, Black Flag borrowed nothing from the Descendents. But in terms of actual musicians, the South Bay downstrumming icons were drummer Stevenson's main band for a few years during the mid-1980s. During his tenure, the skinsman toured with Greg Ginn and company and played on theMy War, Slip it In, Loose Nut, Family Man, The Process of Weeding Out, In My Head and Live '84
The Lemonheads are really just singer/guitarist/songwriter Evan Dando and whomever else he feels like playing with. For 2005's self-titled album on Vagrant Records, Dando enlisted Stevenson and Alvarez as his rhythm section. The trio toured for the album, and at one show, Aukerman joined the threesome for a rendition of the Angry Samoans' "Right Side of My Mind."
There's some band from San Diego called blink-182. I guess they've sold some records or something. Anyway, drummer Travis Barker has theI Don't Want to Grow Up
baby Milo tattooed on him (and the word "Hope," a well-known Descendents song), but the Descendents love doesn't stop there for San Diego's pop-punkers, as these guys have been known to cover the songs "Hope" (and Blink-182 off-shoot +44 covered "Christmas Vacation") between telling fart jokes to hyperactive teenagers.
When I was in high school, the one band the cool surfers and the not-getting-laid lame-os that were me and my friends could agree on was the Descendents. The water-logged knuckleheads always cited NOFX as the reason they dug the Descendents, and behind their super tanned backs, I used to wonder what in the hell the aural travesty that is NOFX could have in common with my favorite band.
Then I discovered there was this stretch of what felt like 55 years when singer/bassist Fat Mike wore nothing but the I Don't Want to Grow Up T-shirt. Unfortunately, the ink from the shirt didn't wear off on NOFX's music because, of all the bands to cite the Descendents as an influence, the NorCal quartet seem to be listening to different records than the rest of us.
Instead of penning melodic punk tunes that resonate with the losers in high school, NOFX helped usher in a wave of jock punk catered to dudes who beat up the losers in high school.
Face to Face
As if covering "Bikeage" weren't enough Descendents love, the Victorville pop punks borrowed the lines "You don't know what you want/It may take you years to find out" from "Hope" for their mega-hit "Disconnected." Kids with nothing better to do used to complain about the "sampling," but in full disclosure, I used to work for Vagrant Records (co-owned by Face to Face manager Rich Egan), and this subject came up once.
Egan explained it was a nod to the Descendents, not thievery, which I already assumed because I wasn't a kid with nothing better to do. While I admit I was never much of a Face to Face fan, I will go on record as saying these were some of the nicest band members on the label during my tenure there, and their love of the Descendents was very, very genuine.
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Every band that falls into the emo category owes the Descendents a royalty check. Back when punk lost a tinge of its arty weird side and became about dudes with shaved heads yelling about Reagan, the Descendents were singing about stuff that really mattered. Stuff like parents, girls and food. Perhaps today's emo bands don't sing about eating (though they should), but the idea of an underground rock band expressing their frustration with something other than cops and the government was created by the South Bay icons.
For teenage angst, nothing beats Frank Navetta's "Parents," in which Aukerman sings, "Parents, why won't they shut up?/Parents, they're so fucked-up/They treat me like a tool/They take me for a fool."
And as far as the subject of the heartache that comes only from humans with two Y chromosomes, the Descendents perfected that craft. The Stevenson/Navetta track "Marriage" painfully says, "Now you know what I think about you/You know that my speed is true/I know I want you to be my wife/And be with me the rest of your life," while Stevenson's "Jean Is Dead" explains, "Your mother told me last night on the phone/Why'd you do it/Now I'm alone/I would have helped you/Would have done anything/Would have taken you with me or bought you a ring/Now you're gone, and I'm alone." It's just like Dashboard Confessional, except good.