Descendents Display 40 Years of Punk Dominance on '9th & Walnut'
Published Jul 20, 2021It's a shame that Descendents put off finishing 9th & Walnut for so long, as an album this focused and snotty would have surely launched a killer second act for these SoCal punk pioneers.
Recorded in 2002, vocalist Milo Aukerman and drummer Bill Stevenson brought back guitarist Frank Navetta and bassist Tony Lombardo to record an entire album based on songs written before the release of their immortal 1982 debut, Milo Goes to College. With Navetta's passing in 2008, the band halted their years-long sessions, leaving most of the tracks unfinished before Aukerman added the final vocals to these 18 tracks in 2020.
But what makes Descendents' eighth full-length so fascinating is the fact that these songs contain such a variety of ideas and moods for something that was originally written by a bunch of teenagers. "You Make Me Sick" is written like an angry hardcore song, before Aukerman delivers an eye-winking vomiting noise at the end, while "I'm Shaky" features honest-to-goodness harmonies, and their sped-up cover of Dave Clark Five's 1963 smash "Glad All Over" shows off each band member's love of vintage pop music.
The fact that the majority of the material was written 40 years back and recorded nearly two decades ago leaves the onus strictly on Aukerman to keep these numbers sounding youthful and full of punk vigor. Tracks like the thrashy 60-second "Crepe Suzette" and the remarkably melodic "Yore Disgusting" find him pushing his voice to its breaking point, as he crackles along with Lombardo's skittering basslines. He even manages to bring the valley-boy spirit to "It's a Hectic World" and "Ride the Wild," respectively the A-side and B-side of Descendents' first single, originally recorded before he was a member of the band.
Luckily, the 25-minute LP contains enough spitfire energy and ire to match the band's early records. Navetta shows great range on the remarkably hefty "Lullaby" and delivers metal-style riffing of "Tired of Being Tired." Stevenson — the most tenured musician on this album, having played consistently for 40 years as a member of Black Flag, All and Descendents — is the real glue that hold this record together. The drummer keeps Lombardo's chewy basslines on track, best demonstrated on the two-and-a-half-minute anthem "Nightage" and the swinging "Grudge." While 9th & Walnut ranks among Descendents' best work, circumstances have made it more of a capsule in time than a harbinger of future classics from the band. (Epitaph)