Released Jan. 17th by Filter Magazine
For a guy who once sang “I don’t wanna grow up” and “What will it be like when I get old?”, Milo Aukerman has aged pretty darn well. In addition to fronting the legendary Descendents, he’s got a PhD in biochemistry and researches plants for DuPont. To celebrate his 50th birthday, Filter magazine compiled 13 cover versions of classic Descendents songs, performed by current artists (you can download the album for free from the Descendents’ website). Many artists have covered Descendents tunes over the years, most of them of the pop/skate-punk variety. What Milo Turns 50 does different is step outside the genre, bringing in acts from indie, post-hardcore, alt-rock, electropop, and alt-country spheres. The result is a mixed bag, but still fun.
On first glance, the only acts that would seem to fit on such an album are all California names: Mike Watt, whose Minutemen shared both a scene and a label (SST/Cruz) with the Descendents in the early ’80s, turns in a stop/start rendition of “Kabuki Girl”. L.A. punks The Bronx inject their devil-may-care attitude into a take on “Catalina” that turns out heavier-feeling than the original thanks to Brad Magers’ bass and Jorma Vik’s drums. A recently-reunited Good Riddance, who were labelmates (Fat Wreck Chords) of the Descendents in the 2000s, contribute a straightforward version of “Sour Grapes”.
A closer look at some of the other acts reveals how they may have ended up on this thing. FIDLAR–who open the comp with a snotty, fuzzy version of “Suburban Home”–are a garage-punk act from L.A. led by brothers Max and Elvis Keuhn, sons of T.S.O.L. keyboardist Greg Keuhn. The Descendents and T.S.O.L. came up in the same Huntington Beach/L.A. scene, so the brothers likely found Milo Goes to College in their dad’s record collection as kids. Tijuana Panthers–covering “Can’t Go Back”–are a surfy power-pop trio from Long Beach, a scene that’s always held the Descendents in high regard.
Some of the other acts make less sense, but are still fun. The Henry Clay People add synths and electronic blippity-bloops to “Clean Sheets”, giving it a Matt & Kim-esque party vibe. Recently re-formed Washington, DC post-hardcore outfit Edsel contribute “Good Good Things”; Sohrab Habibion’s yawning-sounding vocals are familiar from his other current act, Obits, and suit the song well.
The back half of the album is where things gets weird. “Cinematic pop” quintet Milo Greene turn “Parents” into a dreamy, ethereal number, retaining a threatening vibe but removing its teeth. Brooklyn alt-rockers Teen do “Ride the Wild”, which fits their New-Wavey sound but seems an odd choice because it’s a song from before Milo joined the Descendents (original guitarist Frank Navetta sang the song on the band’s first single, prior to Aukerman’s joining). It’s also not considered one of the band’s key tracks. Electropop dude Bobby Birdman turns “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” into a childlike synth-driven number that I don’t feel suits it very well. Similarly, Thrillionaire synthesizes “Myage” and puts the verse vocals so far in the background they may as well not be there. Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell does an alt-country version of “Hope” that largely works, though whatever filter he’s running his vocals through is annoying. The most oddball rendition, and the one that doesn’t seem to have a reason to exist, is electropop outfit Yacht’s “All”. What was a 1-second punk shout is now nearly 4 minutes of electronic drone for seemingly no reason. It sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, not a Descendents tribute.
In all, Milo Turns 50 is a nice tribute, even if several of its tracks seem weird for little more than weirdness’ sake. The ones that work mostly make up for the ones that don’t, and it’s nice to hear these songs through a fresh lens.
I’d like to leave you with the Descendents’ own rendition of “When I Get Old”, as well as a few of my favorite Descendents covers from over the years.