By: Tommy Walzer
Before Mark Hoppus sang about going away to college, Milo left for college and never looked back. With that, he and the Descendents took punk rock by storm, and became iconic purveyors of the genre with their 1982 debut Milo Goes to College. The album is as angsty and cheeky as it is agressive; sweat-drenched instrumentals and brash, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are packaged tightly into caffeine-fueled anthems. Recorded during the liftoff of the SoCal punk movement, Milo fully embraced the teenage unrest that fed this chaotic new music scene. At under 23 minutes over 15 songs, what the album lacks in length it makes up for in cleverness, raw power, and subtle complexity.
Milo Aukerman’s condescending lyrics embody everything I always wanted to say in high school, especially growing up in an upper class neighborhood. On “I’m not a Loser”, he makes a mockery of superficial desires including wanting a new car, having a one night stand, smoking pot, and buying cheap cocaine. Redefining his own social label, he turns the tables and makes it clear that the joke is on everyone but him. At the same time, it’s clear on Milo that Aukerman is merely a young man with rapidly-changing sentiments. “You whores, you can’t make me want/I’ve got all the fish I need on the deck of my boat,” he yells on “Catalina”, a song about embracing solitude and basically rejecting everyone else, which is pretty punk, right?
On “Marriage”, however, he is as outright about love as the title suggests; the entire song is a shedding of reservations in which he pleads, “I wanna be your friend, I wanna be with you, I want you to marry me!” Girls and parents are the central themes of the album. It’s thematically immature but oh what a huge release it is being able to kick out the jams to what are basically my teenage years. Some people try to put punk rock in a box of toughness, but over the years it has been just as much about tender feelings as it is anger and confrontation. What makes it such an appealing genre is that it’s visceral, catchy, and shamelessly raw. Hardcore punk rockers will dismiss “pop-punk” bands as being too soft and failing to embrace the genre’s anarchic principles, but it’s quite evident on true punk albums like Milo that the feels are there, and you’re still going thrash and bang your head.
Any longer than 23 minutes and strings would snap and skins would rip. The spastic rhythms on Milo are as short, sweet, and to the point, each track giving %110 during its short life. “Myage,” the opening track, starts with an up-and-down bass line from Tony Lombardo that paves the way for Bill Stevenson’s razor sharp drumming and then Frank Navetta’s sunny guitar chords. Most of the music is bass-centric, which gives gives off warm underlying melodies on tracks like “Bikeage” (my personal favorite on the album) and a particular giddiness on “I Wanna Be a Bear.” With the guitar and bass so in touch with one another, the melodies are extremely catchy whether you’re listening or playing. The Descendents are skittish in their playing on their first album, and understandably so, but they definitely lay the foundations for later pace-pushing punk bands like Blink 182 and Pennywise. It’s supposed to be fun and stupid, but at the same it’s time turned a few notches higher technically than predecessors like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. The overall sound is pure SoCal thrash, and seeks to rebel against anything and everything. Not one song on the album lacks blazing tempo or gritty charisma; Milo is an album that sonically just does not hit the brakes.
Heavy, angry, excited, and immature, Milo Goes to College should be a staple in any punk rock fan’s music collection. But honestly if you enjoy fun music with no inhibitions, then this is an album for you.
Tommy is a junior from Highland Park, IL. He is currently studying communications, and hopes to one day turn his musically dictated life into a productive career. He believes that he can play drums and freestyle rap quite well, and can be seen performing in your friend’s basement on weekends. He sheds a tear every time he puts on his Joan Baez vinyl, and is currently searching for a friend he can discuss black metal with.