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Descendents - 9th & Walnut Music Album Reviews

Descendents - 9th & Walnut Music Album Reviews
The veteran California band reconstructs some of its earliest material for an unusual sort of lost album that captures an ephemeral moment in punk history.

Tony Lombardo was in his 30s when he first met Frank Navetta and Bill Stevenson, two teenage outcasts playing punk rock in Navetta’s sister’s garage at 9th Street and Walnut Avenue in Long Beach, California. They played together for a few years, but by the time Stevenson insisted the nascent band hit the road and start expanding its profile, Lombardo had a job, a mortgage, and a fiancée. He took a pass on touring, and left the group soon after. He came to regret that decision, recently telling Rolling Stone that “it was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

9th & Walnut, the eighth studio album from the Descendents, represents a do-over of sorts for the now-76-year-old Lombardo, looking back at those early days in the garage with nostalgic fondness and more than a tinge of wistfulness. Its songs were written in the late 1970s, before singer Milo Aukerman joined the group, and recorded by his bandmates in the early aughts. During last year’s pandemic lockdown, Stevenson returned to the tracks and added Aukerman’s newly recorded vocals, thus marking a kind of reunion. The unusual process manages to capture an ephemeral formative moment in the history of one of the most influential bands in punk.

The lineup here represents the spiritual core of a band that’s long been in flux, pulled apart over the years by various obligations: Aukerman’s career in biochemistry, Stevenson’s work with Black Flag, Lombardo’s suburban dreams, and the late Navetta’s mental and physical health. By the time Aukerman joined the band in 1979, after the release of their first 7" (“Ride the Wild/It’s a Hectic World”), they had already begun to evolve. Many of the songs that appear on 9th & Walnut had been dropped from their live sets, and they wouldn’t be recorded until 2002, when drummer Stevenson assembled guitarist Navetta and bassist Lombardo to finally put them to tape. When Stevenson sent Aukerman the tracks from those 2002 sessions last year, Aukerman was hearing many of them for the first time.

Since the bulk of this material was tracked years after it was written, and after decades of experience, there’s a technical proficiency and polish that would have been unachievable for the kids in that garage. Still, the Descendents’ back catalog has always had a juvenile bent, and the songs on 9th & Walnut are especially unrefined—Navetta wrote some of them when he was just 14. “Baby Doncha Know” excoriates an older woman for not acting her age from a predictably misguided youthful POV; “Yore Disgusting” and “Grudge” are indignant rants against people he hates. But these recordings also reveal some of the secret sauce that made early Descendents records so transcendent—namely, Lombardo’s distinctive downstroke strumming, an aggressive style that pushed the basslines out front, adding both heft and nuance to seemingly simple compositions.

Most of the record wouldn’t rank among the band’s best work, but there are gems. “Nightage,” Lombardo’s ode to a downward romantic spiral, joins the cadre of classic Descendents “-age” songs, and sounds the most fully formed of any of the album’s 18 tracks. And it’s more than a little cool to hear Aukerman’s vocals on the two Descendents songs released before he joined the group (“Ride the Wild,” “It’s a Hectic World”). If nothing else, it demonstrates just how transformative his presence was in shaping the band’s sound.

As much as anything, 9th & Walnut is a historical fiction, a reinterpretation of the brief moment before Stevenson became the de facto bandleader and took on most of the songwriting responsibilities, before Navetta burned his gear and fled north to become a fisherman, before the bespectacled Aukerman was the literal and figurative face of the band, when Descendents made raw, bitter punk rock rooted in Navetta’s angst and Lombardo’s reverence for the ’60s. There’s a significant gap between the jangly new wave guitars on that first 7" and the taut, melodic hardcore roots of 1982’s Milo Goes to College, the record that would birth pop-punk. In context, it is slightly bizarre to hear aging punks perform the songs of their youth, music that would become foundational to scenes that produced the likes of Blink-182 and Weezer. But as the missing link that connects Descendents’ humble beginnings to their most iconic sounds, it’s essential.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Descendents - 9th & Walnut Music Album Reviews Descendents - 9th & Walnut Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, August 13, 2021 Rating: 5

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