9th & Walnut sees parents of modern punk, the Descendents, throw it further back than the release of their 1982 debut. The instrumental is over a decade old, a recording of all original band members. The songs themselves were written by the band before the release of their first album in 1982. Singer Milo Auckerman put vocals over the 2002 instrumental recordings during quarantine. Though it’s possible that these songs have only made it onto an album due to pandemic boredom, it still gives valuable insight into the groups creative process and mentality throughout the years.
The same attitude one would expect from the teenage Descendents is brought in the first few tracks. Admittedly, “Sailor’s Choice” feels like a rather odd and trivial opener for the tracklist. Most songs off the album have easily discernible lyrics, with themes addressing adolescence, love, and nonconformity. It’s not that apathetic silliness of lyrics such as “I just yellow” are out of place for the Descendents; rather, it’s that the ripping followup, “Crepe Suzette” would be a more fitting start to tell the history of the band.
The sound of dejected and reckless teenage life is emulated by Milo to the best of his ability after being gone from those days for so long. He tends to succeed at putting on this angst despite a changed, less snot-nosed voice. The words are sung without taking them away from the place in time from which they came.
What sticks out, despite the original lineup playing it, is the instrumental. Much of what we hear from Milo and his lyrics sounds like something he would have belted out against a truer hardcore setting back in the day. The playing is subtly more nuanced. However it’s still a giveaway that the people playing this music are different from the ones who wrote the songs.
“Nightage” features Milo’s in between a prominent bassline and playful guitar work. At times the band appears to be giving listeners extra room to breath. Thankfully, with the hit of the of the chorus, we’re locked back into a hardcore vacuum seal.
Undeniably, 9th & Walnut is for a wider audience than super fans looking to listen to old demos. There are some highlights, and any lackluster moments are over with fast. It does what it needs to do to give fans a clearer view of the band, without functioning strictly as a prologue.