Some bands have a problem filling a key slot, often its finding a lead singer. The bassist or guitarist might take a stab at vocals. And while the results may not be laughable, they are usually far from exceptional.
The Descendents, with guitarist Frank Navetta, bassist Tony Lombardo and drummer Bill Stevenson, sounded like a "coffee'd-out blend of Rock-Surf-Pop-Punk music," needed a singer. That was apparent after both Navetta and Lombardo took a shot at singing. The answer was Milo Aukerman.
The group released the "Fat" EP and the full-length "Milo Goes To College" in '82. The album's 'Milo' illustration was done by Jeff Atkinson, based on earlier caricatures by Aukerman's high school classmate Roger Deuerlein, who had drawn comic strips and posters depicting Aukerman as a nerd. The image re-appeared throughout the band's career.
Calling Aukerman a nerd proved prophetic. He left to study biology at the University of California, San Diego. "When I decided to go to university, the guys in the band were pretty hip on it because they knew how big of a nerd I was," Aukerman later stated. "I mean, I've got a Ph.D in biochemistry — how uncool is that?
Though it initially appeared to be a one-off effort, "Milo Goes To College" did receive accolades down the road. Spin magazine placed the album at #74 on their '95 list of the Best Alternative Albums and at #20 on their '01 list of The 50 Most Essential Punk Records. Kerrang! chimed in slotting the effort at #33 on their '06 list of the Greatest Punk Albums of All Time.
The Descendents continued with Ray Cooper handling vocals. But Stevenson ventured to Black Flag, thinking he could play in both bands. It turned out to be undoable given Black Flag's touring and recording schedule. He left Black Flag in '85.
Later that year, following a two year hiatus, The Descendents reconvened with Stevenson, Aukerman, Lombardo and Cooper, now playing guitar, reconvened for "I Don't Want To Grow Up." However, Lombardo was unable to tour with the band due to his job with the United States Postal Service. He was replaced by Doug Carrion.
Next up was '86's "Enjoy!" But once the supporting tour was done, so were Carrion and Cooper. They were replaced by Karl Alvarez and Stephen Egerton, respectively. It may have taken the better part of a decade but The Descendents finally had a stable long-term line-up.
"All" came out in '87. "Doing the utmost, achieving the utmost," Aukerman said, explaining the album's concept. "It's also an outlook on how to conduct your life: to not settle for some, to always go for All." The album featured tracks that were just long enough to make a point.
Basically just to avoid stagnation... going for "ALL" and never being satisfied and just wallowing in your own sameness," Stevenson added.
As it turned out, Aukerman left again to pursue a career in biochemistry. The group added Dave Smiley and rechristened themselves All. They released eight albums between '88 and '95, with Aukerman contributing occasional songwriting and backing vocals.
Aukerman expressed a desire to return to recording and performing, so The Descendents were revived. On a parallel track, All continued.
The '96 comeback album, "Everything Sucks," contained performances by original Descendents members Tony Lombardo and Frank Navetta. The lineup of Aukerman, Lombardo, Navetta, and Stevenson was heard for the first time since '82.
Following a supporting tour, The Descendents went relatively silent until Aukerman took another break from biochemistry for '04's "Cool To Be You."
1982 Milo Goes To College
1985 I Don't Want To Grow Up
1996 Everything Sucks
2004 Cool To Be You