'Merican is the latest release from the legendary punk band, the Descendents. It was released on the 10th of February, 2004, and it is their first release since 1996's classic Everything Sucks. It's the band's first release on Fat Wreck Chords (the label started up and operated by Fat Mike, NOFX singer and bassist), after previous stints on Epitaph and SST. It's a 5 track EP (well, 4 plus 1 secret track), available as both a CDEP or a Vinyl 7".
The band's lineup, which has been pretty shaky in the past (with members of Dag Nasty and Black Flag coming and going), and the singer Milo Aukerman taking some extended study leave. At that point the band got a different singer and became ALL, but after Dr. Milo returned, Descendents reformed, although ALL is still going as well. Nothing seems to have changed since Everything Sucks, though, and the band is still:
The EP is essentially a taster for the upcoming full length, also on Fat Wreck, namely Cool To Be You. I know this is going to be the best album since sliced bread, but I have to say I was a little unsure as my copy of 'Merican arrived as to whether the band still had it in them.. after a 7 year period of inactivity, as far as releases go, was Milo still not a loser? Did everything still suck? Time to find out..
The first song on the album, Nothing with You, is a vintage Descendents love song. For people who aren't into slushy stuff, don't worry, even when the Descendents are doing love, they still don't slow down. It's a good EP opener, and according to the liner notes it will be included on Cool To Be You. It's essentially about someone being completely content to do nothing with the proverbial "you", just sitting around a watching TV. "I don't wanna move / I'll just sit here in my living room and / see what's on the tube / while I'm hanging out with you". Naturally, it contains a good smatter of resentment towards everyone else: "People knock on my door, ringing my phone / telling me the things I gotta get done today / to satisfy them, but what about me?". Judging by this, the band had lost none of their punch over time.
The second song, 'Merican is a characteristic 1:51 burst of energy from the band. As anyone with a tiny bit of intuition might have guessed, the song is about the current state of America, and it's admittently dubiously moral history. "We flipped our finger to the King of England / then stole our country from the Indians / With god on our side and guns in our hands / we took it for our own". As Milo kindly notes, "But it's the land of the slaves and the Ku Klux Klan, / The haymarket riot, and the Great Depression / Joe McCarthy, Vietnam / Sickest joke I know..." The verse with just Milo and the drums towards the end of the song is excellent, and really sets the song off nicely. This song is also included on Cool To Be You.
The third song, Here With Me, is a lot mellower than the other songs on the EP. Again it's a love song, this time about Milo being away from his wife (well, I'm guessing that's who he's writing it about). "You would call it a perfect day / and naturally I'd have to agree / but you're not here with me" The lyrics speak of depression, which Milo is reportedly not a stranger to (particularly during his Biochemistry research), and so that could well be the impetus for writing this. Either way, it's a nice slow song, and adds some variety to the EP.
The last listed track, I Quit, is causing me a little worry. It's about someone being sick of the Rock And Roll life, and wanting to quit: "Sick all the time, I miss my wife, I Quit / Got better things to do with my life, I Quit". It's a good song, but I can't help wondering if this is really how Milo feels.. will CTBY be the last Descendents release? I hope not, but only time will tell. Either way, the band are predictably tight on this and all tracks, even if the subject is more than a little thought provoking.
Leave the CD playing after I Quit finishes (or skip forward to 3:22) and the bonus track stars. It's not mentioned anywhere in the liner notes and there are no author credits or anything. I'm giving it the tentative title of Lie, just because I can. Lie is quite different to the rest of the songs, as it is must slower, and almost like slow Metal in the way the Guitar sounds. That doesn't mean it's bad, though, in fact it's quite a refreshing change. It's again about love (Hey, it's the Descendents, come on) but it's apparently not true love: "Baby look into my eyes / and you'll know, what we have, is a Lie". Definitely an interesting departure from normal, although I can see some hardcore fans not appreciating it too much.. maybe that's why it's a secret track. A well, anyway, it's all good whatever.
Overall, the songs are partially what you'd expect (tracks 1, 2, and 4) and partially something new. It's definitely a strong comeback release, and there are no obvious signs of the band running out of steam. Definitely well worth the £4.50 it set me back.
And now we come to the most important part of any Descendents release: the picture on the front. As ever, it's the Milo cartoon character, this time wearing that big hat with stripes on and stars round just above the brim. You know, the guy with the beard who points at people. I think he's called Captain America or something*. Anyway, it's the typical Milo with glasses doing the pointing and hat wearing this time, and it definitely fits in with the title track.
After hearing this, I really can't wait for Cool To Be You (it's out sometime in March 2004, I believe) and I'm sure I'll be getting a copy as soon as it hits my local DIY Punk shop. I'll follow up with a node when I get that record, but in the meantime, all fans, and everyone else, should buy this, and remember to keep drinking those Bonus Cups!!
* - it's okay kids, I know he's not really called Captain America.
Owning and listening the the release
The Descendent's section on the Fat Wreck Chords site: www.fatwreck.com