Milo Goes to College
It was the Descendents' last record with founding guitarist Frank Navetta, who quit the band during the hiatus that followed its release.
The album's mix of fast and aggressive hardcore punk with melody and cheeky love songs led to it being considered one of the most significant albums of the early 1980s southern California hardcore movement.
In the decades since its release it has received positive reviews and been counted among the most noteworthy punk albums by several publications.
Milo Goes to College has been cited as influential and a favorite by several notable artists and musicians.
The Descendents' 1981 Fat EP had established the band's presence in the southern California hardcore punk movement with its short, fast, aggressive songs.
"I think with those songs we were expanding beyond the kind of fast-fast-fast-fast thing", he later recalled.
"There are some of the similar coffee-driven songs, but I know that melodically there was actually an attempt at singing and making more pop-flavored music.
Obviously we all really loved that, growing up with The Beatles and stuff."
Drummer Bill Stevenson reflected that "By the time we recorded Milo Goes to College the pendulum swung somewhere maybe in the middle.
There's a lot of melodic and pop elements to it, but it also has that [sense of] bitter resentment."
All four band members made songwriting contributions to the album.
Stevenson had written the lead track, "Myage", several years earlier using a bass guitar he had found discarded in a trash bin.
His song "Bikeage" is about "a group of girls who were sort of turning into sluts", while "Jean Is Dead" deals with "a girl who was not stable, but I had really not known."
Fishing was a favorite hobby of Stevenson's; "Catalina" describes a fishing trip to Santa Catalina Island, California.
Guitarist Frank Navetta's song "I'm Not a Loser" expressed resentment and envy toward those he viewed as more attractive and successful, while "Parents" stemmed from his own familial discord, with lyrics such as "They don't even know I'm a boy / They treat me like a toy / But little do they know / That one day I'll explode".
Bassist Tony Lombardo, some 20 years his bandmates' senior, wrote songs expressing his desire for stability and individuality.
"I'm Not a Punk" reflected his disinterest in being part of the anarchic, destructive aspect of the punk scene: "That whole thing turned me off.
I just wanted to play the music and do it as best I could and I had a lot of fun doing that [...] It's like 'I'm Not a Punk'.
I want to be my own person."
"Suburban Home" was quite literal, expressing his desire for "a house just like mom and dad's": "I definitely wanted a home.
I couldn't live in a place where all the people are cool.
I don't like dysfunctionality.
I have an abhorrence of dysfunctionality because my mother was an alcoholic, my parents are divorced, I just don't need that assault on my emotions and psyche."
Recording, title, and cover art
The title and cover illustration referenced Aukerman's departure from the band to attend college; he enrolled at El Camino College for one year, then attended the University of California, San Diego from 1983–85, where he studied biology.
According to Stevenson, "There was never the idea of Milo not being a scientist and Milo staying in the band.
He was always real clear about being into his science first and foremost."
A note on the back sleeve of the LP read "In dedication to Milo Aukerman from the Descendents", and was signed by the other three members.
Atkinson drew several versions of the character wearing different shirts, and Stevenson selected the version with the necktie for its collegiate look.
The Milo character became a mascot for the band and was later reinterpreted by other artists for the covers of I Don't Want to Grow Up (1985), Everything Sucks (1996), "I'm the One" (1997), "When I Get Old" (1997), 'Merican (2004), Cool to Be You (2004), Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016), and SpazzHazard (2016).
Milo Goes to College was released through New Alliance Records, an independent record label run by D. and BoonMike Watt of the San Pedro-based punk band the Minutemen, who were contemporaries of the Descendents.
The album sold around one thousand copies locally from its initial pressings.
There was no tour to support the album.
With Aukerman away at college, the Descendents recruited Ray Cooper as both singer and second guitarist and continued performing locally for a time during 1982 and 1983.
They would occasionally perform as a quintet when Aukerman would join them during his return visits to Los Angeles.
The band was mostly on hiatus for the next few years while Stevenson played in Black Flag.
The Descendents reconvened in 1985, with Cooper on guitar, for the recording of I Don't Want to Grow Up.
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||10/10|
|The Village Voice||A−|
Milo Goes to College is cited as one of the most significant albums of the early-1980s southern California hardcore punk movement.
Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, remarked that its "cheeky love songs disguised as hardcore blasts became the most aped formula in rock."
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau wrote: "These fishermen don't kid around about what powers hardcore hyperdrive—not simply an unjust society, but also a battered psyche.
When they're feeling bad, any kind of power—money, age, ass-man cool, the possession of a vagina—can set off their anarchic, patricidal, 'homo'-baiting, gynephobic rage.
But their bad feelings add poignant weight to the doomed vulnerability of the last four songs, which happen to be their hookiest".
The chainsaw pop combined with earthy humor conveys what is often an inarticulate rage."
Hilburn's review was especially affirming for Stevenson, whose father criticized and discouraged his songwriting: "Robert Hillburn was saying something different.
He was saying that I can write okay, that I'm a decent songwriter.
So it served to shut my dad up a little bit, so that I could pursue the band thing a little less encumbered by his stifling attitude."
Retrospectively, Ned Raggett of AllMusic called it "an unpretentious, catchy winner.
The playing of the core band is even better than before, never mistaking increased skill with needing to show off; the Lombardo/Stevenson rhythm section is in perfect sync, while Navetta provides the corrosive power.
Add in Aukerman's in-your-face hilarity and fuck-off stance, and it's punk rock that wears both its adolescence and brains on its sleeve."
Jenny Eliscu of Rolling Stone called it "all straight-ahead punk — 15 songs in less than a half hour, each full of metally riffs and lightning-speed plucking by bassist Tony Lombardo, who was always the band's secret weapon.
Much like The Who, the Descendents often used the bass for melodies and the guitar to bash out a steady rhythm."
Impact and influence
Milo Goes to College has been included in several lists of noteworthy punk albums.
Spin has listed it several times, ranking it 74th in a 1995 list of the best alternative albums and 20th in a 2001 list of "The 50 Most Essential Punk Records", and including it in a 2004 list of "Essential Hardcore" albums.
In these lists, critic Simon Reynolds described the album as "Fifteen Cali-core paroxysms that anatomize dork-dude pangs with haiku brevity", while Andrew Beaujon called it "Super clean, super tight, super poppy hardcore about hating your parents, riding bikes, and not wanting to 'smell your muff.'
Obviously, Blink-182 owe this bunch of proud California losers everything."
In 2006 Kerrang!
ranked it as the 33rd greatest punk album of all time.
The LA Weekly ranked it the fourth greatest Los Angeles punk album of all time in a 2012 list, with Kai Flanders remarking "Every song speaks to [the listener's] teenage fucked-up-ness, from feeling incredibly horny to just wanting to hit someone for no reason."
Rolling Stone ranked the album fourth in their list of "The 50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums" in 2017, with critic Hank Shteamer writing that "the trademark silly-sappy blend of Milo Goes to College would become the blueprint for pop-punk as we know it."
Several notable artists and musicians cite Milo Goes to College as a favorite and influence, including Mike Watt of the Minutemen, David Nolte of The Last, and Zach Blair of Hagfish, Only Crime, and Rise Against.
That’s a fucking amazing record."
I don’t think there would have been a [Lagwagon] song like 'Angry Days' without that album."
Fat Mike of NOFX has cited Milo Goes to College as his favorite record of all time, and said that hearing the song "Kabuki Girl" on Rodney Bingenheimer's Rodney on the ROQ program on KROQ-FM was a significant moment in his youth.
Chris Shary, who has done artwork for the Descendents and their successor band, All, since 1998, remarked that "From the minute that I heard the beginning it was like 'this is the music that I have been waiting for.'"
Photographer Glen E. Friedman, who photographed the band during the early 1980s, recalled that "the album had just come out, and coincidentally I had my own little heartbreak as a teenager, and I heard that song 'Hope' and I gotta say that I had never in my life related to a song about love ever before until I heard that song [...] I was just 'Wow, this is fucking heavy.
This guy's hurting even more than I am, and this is desperation.'
A whole new world opened up of a depth of emotion in music for me."
In the decades since its release, many artists have recorded cover versions of songs from Milo Goes to College for other releases, including:
- "Myage" by Thrillionaire
- "I'm Not a Loser" by the Voodoo Glow Skulls, Jake & the Stiffs, Manic Hispanic (as a parody version titled "I'm Just a Cholo"), Sublime, and Strung Out.
- "Parents" by Squatweiler with Asteroid Wilhanna and by Milo Greene
- "I'm Not a Punk" by the Melting Hopefuls
- "Catalina" by Black Train Jack and by The Bronx
- "Suburban Home" by Taking Back Sunday, MxPx, and FIDLAR featuring Brian Rodriguez
- "Statue of Liberty" by FF
- "Kabuki Girl" by Frank Phobia and Clem and by Mike Watt + The Secondmissingmen
- "Hope" by Sublime and by Ben Bridwell
- "Bikeage" by Face to Face, Plow United, Years from Now, Joey Cape with Punk Rock Karaoke, and Baroness
- "Jean Is Dead" by Shirk Circus
Adapted from the album liner notes.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milo Goes to College.