Review Summary: "I Don't Want to Grow Up" is the second Descendents full-length installment in their tremendous career. With the return of Milo Aukerman, the departure of Frank Navetta, and some other free agent pick ups, the Descendents scrambled to demonstrate they sti
When Milo went to college, the Descendents were placed on hold for roughly three years. The best way to describe the Descendents during this time is “in transition.” The return of Milo led to the creation of “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” a 14-track comeback effort in just under 30 minutes. Descendents originals Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo ended up leaving the band during and after recording the album, respectively. Navetta was replaced by guitarist Ray Cooper, and Lombardo was eventually replaced by bassist Doug Carrion. The album was originally released on New Alliance Music in ’85, but re-released on SST in ’87. With such a dynamic shift in the Descendents’ composition and development, you would think the music would have been equally affected.
If anything did happen, the Descendents simply matured and did not let anything disrupt their path of creating enjoyable punk rock. The additional contribution by Milo during the song creation process in “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” gave a more singular feel to the Descendents and resulted in fan favorites “Pervert” and “In Love this Way.” The songs on the album are average in length, relative to previous Descendents efforts. However, what really counts in this album is that it goes further than “Somery,” which contains almost half of the songs from “I Don’t Want to Grow Up.”
Before playing the album, you would likely read the track listing like I did, and discover that the first song is titled “Descendents.” You would probably think, as I did, that the song would be juvenile, comical, and upbeat. Well it is, but it also functions as an advertisement (We're looking for a few good men…Attitude is a must…You must sacrifice) and in retrospect as a sarcastic reflection on the band. Milo proclaims “We never did a popular thing / Don't even know how to sing / Couldn't sell out a telephone booth / What I'm telling ya is the truth.” The song is ironic in that the Descendents would have no problem in establishing a permanent mark on the punk rock world, and very true in that Milo ensures “Here's a message from me and Ray / We're not gonna let the music die.” Unfortunately, the song is on Somery, which is a cheap way of getting this song and a bunch of other great Descendents songs without listening to the entire Descendents collection. Hell, the first three songs from this album are on Somery, but I’m going to cover them anyway.
“I Don’t Want to Grow Up” is a childish track (as childish as the Descendents get); it will either get on your nerves permanently or temporarily, with a possible chance of it growing on you. What makes the song worth listening to is that it is simply true. Although it is annoying, it has been scientifically proven that many people do not want to evolve into their parents. The next song, “Pervert,” may hit too close to home with hormone-infested teenage males. It clearly demonstrates the topic that all men – especially teenage boys – have on their minds: sex. “I'd hate to think that romance is just a pose / But all I want to do is rip off your clothes.” Oh no, the secret’s out. The song feels filthy but rings the bells of truth too well to be avoided.
“Rockstar” and “No FB” are two consecutive short blasts of punk rock that finish in just over a minute. I had a difficult time trying to understand why these songs were appealing during my first few listens, but then got tired or just sounded crappy. Then it hit me. These are songs meant to be played live. I confirmed my suspicions when I checked the track listing from “Hallraker,” one of the two Descendents’ live albums, that showed the two tracks are played in back-to-back fashion. You can enjoy these songs on your stereo if you enjoy half-minute explosions of punk rock all over your ears, but also understand that they were designed to move you physically more than mentally.
“Can’t Go Back” is a song about being released into the world and discovering its harsh and painful truths. With lyrics like “It's a dirty old place and it's full of lies / And I can't see a thing through virgin's eyes,” it reinforces the belief that ignorance is bliss. We all have our moments of discovery in life and feel the same way as Bill Stevenson describes: “Everybody here is laughing at me / But now I know my weakness is my strength / And I want to go back and I can't go back.”
“GCF” stands for “Good, Clean Fun.” I do not enjoy “GCF” because it is an implied theme in a lot of the Descendents’ music, needlessly presented explicitly. The lyrics are not too clever, and the music is not special. It is missing a lot of the Descendents’ personality and results in a bummer. “My World” is a few steps above “GCF” and puts the album back on solid footing. The music is hard and the guitar dictates the mood of the song. There is a noticeable connection between Milo’s singing on this track and his songwriting, and it makes the song much better. With lyrics like “Just came from my girl's bed / Don't think I'll ever forget what she said / I tried to show her my song / She laughed and said the chords were all wrong,” the listener may receive a familiar taste of disappointment. In “My World,” Milo explains “alone time.” It is a good song for when you need to be by yourself to gather your thoughts, or when you are just tired of putting up with everyone. The next song, “Theme,” is Lombardo’s chance at redemption (since he is credited for GCF). “Theme” sums up the Descendents’ recognizable sound through an instrumental and lets the boys jam for a couple of minutes. It does wonders at reflecting the Descendents’ personality because of the higher pitched guitar and drum rolls that are hallmarks of later Descendents works. It is not a song by which the Descendents are known, but it makes for a good listen.
The last five songs on “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” are why I love this album. “Silly Girl” is a true testament to the progression of not only the Descendents’ love songs, but their musical style altogether. It sounds like a cover of a classic ballad, but it is not! It is a classic Descendents song, worthy of its placement on Somery and contributed to my permanent Descendents fan membership. The Descendents are very much about relating to the listener, and with lyrics like “They said just stay away and now I wish I had / I'm so in love with you, my silly girl,” the listener receives messages relating to being blindly in love (ignorant of the circumstances surrounding the relationship). “In Love this Way” is about having a friend who you wish was more than a friend. Milo personally inquires “Because I wonder if I'm more than just a friend / Did I really see a fire - or just inside my head / Sometimes I know you just want me to go away / Well it's so hard to be a friend and be in love this way.” This song is not incredible; the guitar differs from most of the album and it is not your typical punk riff. However, its concepts are conveyed very well and the song does a great job of honestly describing the feelings one has during this situation. Milo’s construction of this song is well done and develops a fluid continuity between “Silly Girl” and the next song, “Christmas Vacation.”
“Christmas Vacation” describes the apparent mental collapse of a loved one, due to what seems to be alcoholism. Musically this song is nothing out of the ordinary Descendents, but its lyrics do not disappoint. However it is not your typical Descendents song, in that we are exposed to the circumstances around the collapse of a relationship. Whether it is with a family member or someone else is unclear, but I assume that Milo writes about a former girlfriend. Either way, “Christmas Vacation” is a good song backed with solid emotions. The next song, “Good Good Things” is another Somery special, that is catchy and tells the story of a young lover who believes that they have finally found someone who can help them with their love life. The lover has experienced parts of love, but has never been fulfilled. Milo sings “So come on down and walk with me, and tell me I'm your man / Let's see if I can get it right with you this time around,” in search of someone to love.
The last song, “Ace,” illustrates the inactive sufferer, otherwise known as the “Emo Child.” This song is designed to kick start your rebound from a depressing event and to encourage you to get moving. Milo repeats “So quit thinking. Now's the time / And start doing. Now's the time / You've got a lot to live for / So quit crying. Now's the time / And start trying. Now's the time / Now's the time. Now's the time to live.” It is a wonderful finish to the album and completes “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” in a great way. By the end of the album, I realized that it is all about growing up. The Descendents did it well.
A criticism of this album has come from the perspective that there are a lot of hypocrisies in the lyrics. I defend this criticism by saying that most punk is a result of mixed emotions, and it is about writing what you feel. The Descendents write honest songs and silly songs, and equal weight should not be given to each to establish their reputation. They did not write the songs with the intention of being criticized for trying to have fun with some songs and create sincere moods for others.
That’s it! I hope you will now be able to discern whether purchasing this album is a good or bad decision.