Descendents - 'Merican (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


'Merican (2004)

Fat Wreck

‘Merican is a somewhat minor release in The Descendents’ discography. It was released a month before their sixth album, Cool to Be You, which was set to be their first LP in eight years. ‘Merican is mostly a promotional EP to psych people up for Cool to Be You, or, alternately, an extended single for the song ‘Merican. The EP contains two tracks from Cool to Be You, followed by three b-sides from the recording session that never made it onto the LP. Basically, the band was afraid that their long absence would mean that there were a lot of new punk fans on the scene that didn’t know them, so they wanted something that might whet the appetites, so to speak. It certainly does that, and in doing so it highlights “’Merican,” one of the band’s all-time greatest songs.

The EP’s first track is the only song besides the title track to appear on Cool to Be You, “Nothing With You,” a really sweet love song about doing nothing but watch TV with the person you love. It’s up there with the best of the band’s love songs, and it’s really relatable. Then comes “’Merican,” and what can I possibly say about how great this song is? I may not agree with every word said in “’Merican,” and, in fact, the song makes me think that I’m much more cynical about America than bassist Karl Alvarez who wrote this song, but I love the balanced approach to the song. You could almost call the song patriotic, but it’s critically patriotic. Basically, the song compares and contrasts the good parts of American culture (mostly music and arts) with the negative parts of American culture (wars, racism, etc.). The only part I don’t really like is the line “Shrinks pushing pills on everyone,” which is part of an unfortunate ongoing theme in later Descendents’ music of an abelist disdain for psychiatric medications.

“Here With You,” a song Milo Aukerman actually wrote back in 1989 for his short lived band, Milestone, is a bit of a throw away break up song, and it isn’t hard to tell why it never made it onto the LP proper. “I Quit” is an expression of Aukerman’s frustrations with the music industry, and the title and repeated refrain of “I quit” are references to the fact that Aukerman has quit the band several times over the years and wanted to quit the band at the time he wrote the song. It’s a perfect encapsulation of that anger with the industry, and makes it pretty clear why he’s flitted back and forth between music and science. “Alive” is an interesting experiment for The Descendents, playing around with metal and grunge elements that they had never really tried before. But “interesting” remains the highest compliment I can really give this song, as the experiment is certainly laudable, but ultimately unsuccessful.

This EP is often overlooked, and I can understand why. In fact, when we were picking who would do which albums for Descendents/All week, nobody bothered to even put ’Merican on the list for anyone to pick. But I mostly like that it’s a showcase for the title track, which is truly an excellent song and one that’s somehow breaking the mold of punk rock yet definitively punk rock at the same time. ‘Merican may be somewhat of a forgotten EP, but “’Merican” remains one of The Descendents greatest triumphs.