Release Date: Jul 29, 2016
Record label: Epitaph
Punk music doesnâ€™t have many bands like The Descendents, while some of the more prominent punk bands from the 1980s will pull themselves together for a reunion tour every few years, milk the festival circuit for some quick cash, or feature so few (if any) original members theyâ€™ve become a tribute band of sorts. The Descendents, thankfully, were never that band. Sure they take a decade or more between albums, but when they do put a new album out they rarely disappoint their fans.
A dozen years after their last album, Cool To Be You on Fat Wreck, and 20 years since their last Epitaph album Everything Sucks, everyone’s favourite SoCal geek rockers Descendents are back with more melodic hardcore goodness. Descendents have spent long periods dormant, while singer Milo Aukerman pursued his day job as a biochemist – the title of their debut album, 1982’s highly influential Milo Goes To College, was quite literal. The band carried on for a while, but with drummer Bill Stevenson busy playing with Black Flag, the band entered the first hiatus of many.
First album in 12 years from pop-punk kings Descendents The affection held for the Descendents in punk circles is unparalleled, so their return 12 years after their last album, 2004’s Cool To Be You, is an event to celebrate..
Thirty-four years on from their debut album, Milo Goes to College, California punk stalwarts Descendents still seem resistant to the idea of growing up – for good or ill. It’s difficult not to wince at the puerile title of their seventh album, which has been accused of being disablist (defenders of the band have argued that the problematic word has a different meaning in the US). More agreeable is the band’s sound, which has maintained a pleasing balance of wistfulness and brattishness, even if singer Milo Aukerman’s concerns have moved on from bullying at school to heart disease (No Fat Burger).
Descendents making an album for old people, by old people: It sounds like a bad joke, even by the SoCal ex-brats’ standards. For the better part of the band’s four-decade career, they’ve been the gold standard for puerility in pop-punk: When the best song on the new Blink-182 album is a nonsensical gag that’s shorter than an NBA shot clock, it’s because of the precedent Milo & Co. set 35 years earlier.
Back in 2004, when Descendents released their last album, things were different. George W. Bush was President and the Iraq War was the hot-button issue of the day. Descendents bassist Karl Alvarez wrote a terrific political diatribe on the related subject of patriotism called "'Merican" and the song was released as a single on a stand-alone EP of the same name, alongside the album Cool to Be You, the last Descendents release up to this point.
The Descendents didn’t set out to become heroes of punk rock–if anything, they came together to earnestly troll it. The California group seemed innocent enough when they formed in the late ‘70s: four guys from Manhattan Beach playing cheeky hardcore songs about coffee, crushes, and hating your parents. Compared to their macho peers in the then-booming Golden State scene (Black Flag, TSOL, Fear, and the like) the Descendents struck most punks as unthreatening, maybe even a little bit soft–and that was the point, as frontman Milo Aukerman so passionately argued on a song titled (wait for it) “I’m Not a Punk:” “Show me the way to conformity,” he sneers, smirking at the beefcakes, “Try to be different but it’s always the same.
Though they started with a trip to college, nobody ever expected Descendents to grow up. The Peter Pan of punk bands has spat in the face of adulthood for nearly 40 years, penning snot-laced songs with titles such as “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” (1985) and “When I Get Old” (1996), the latter released when the members were already well into their 30s. Now that bespectacled vocalist Milo Aukerman, drummer-songwriter Bill Stevenson, and their merry band of social misfits have returned with their fourth or fifth comeback album (honestly, it’s hard to keep track at this point), it seems appropriate that they would call it Hypercaffium Spazzinate.
The band photo in the packaging for the Descendents' 2016 album Hypercaffium Spazzinate says a lot: the geeky, misfit kids who recorded the band's early triumphs are now middle-aged men, all over 50, and noticeably greyer and heftier, but most importantly looking cheerful and confident. It's a young person's birthright to wail about their lives, but what about these guys? The Descendents still have their own reasons to howl, and despite being eligible to join AARP, it still suits them. The unspoken theme of Hypercaffium Spazzinate is the ultimate inevitability of adulthood, and how it impacts your life.
It’s been 34 years since Milo Goes to College, and 12 years since the last Descendents record, Cool to Be You. So the news of a new Descendents record is surprising, that these players—all in their 50s—might spend three years making these songs speaks to the bond the band has, even when they spend time apart. That sense of unity drives Hypercaffium Spazzinate, the band’s energetic, absolutely catchy new record.
Twelve years is a long gap between albums for any band, let alone one made up of middle-aged punks. But on their latest, long-in-the works album, Descendents once again prove that the genre isn't just a young man's game.Over their four-decade career, the band have established a set of themes and tones for their records. On their first LP since 2004's Cool to Be You, they hit almost every mark: juvenile humour, epicurean-themed blitzkriegs and heart-on-sleeve anthems all make appearances here.
Nearly four decades ago, Descendents were the band that taught hardcore bruisers that punk could be short and (sort of) sweet with sub-one-minute ragers complaining about parents and praising their favorite foods. Although they've broken up and re-formed several times over the years – with band members concentrating on euphonious and euphoric pop-punk crew All when head Descendent Dr. Milo Aukerman works as a biochemist researching crop traits – not much seems to have changed.
The godfathers of SoCal pop-punk are back! Ok, their first record in 12 years doesn’t sound much like progress. Karl Alvarez’ loping bassline on Victim Of Me could’ve been lifted entirely from their 1982 debut Milo Goes to College; ditto the self-referential, hi-speed daftness of No Fat Burger. But who are we kidding? For anyone excited at the prospect of a new Descendents record in 2016, progress is almost certainly an afterthought.
After a 12-year wait, a new Descendents album has arrived - but not without its share of drama. Since the band released 2004's Cool To Be You, drummer/songwriter Bill Stevenson had a brain tumour, which required two craniotomies, and underwent both open-heart and open-lung surgery. On top of that, bassist Karl Alvarez suffered a heart attack. So, yeah, all is forgiven for taking their time.
This past month was a generally slow one in terms of album releases, and yet Carl and I were able to find some true gems that will surely stick with us through the entire year. I was downright elated every time I spun the rather joyful Wildflower, The Avalanches comeback statement, while Carl ….
With Blink-182 releasing their comeback album earlier this month, you’d be forgiven for assuming that that was the most important pop-punk record of not just the month, but the entire year. You would, however, be dead wrong. Arriving 12 years on from their last album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate is a comeback album of blistering proportions. Managing to quash any doubts about its relevancy within the opening 75 seconds, it picks up almost exactly where Cool to Be You left off, proving Descendents have still got something left to give.
"Started out with nothing to say/ In a carpet cave we learned how to play/ We didn't know that this would last forever." So concedes iconic, bespectacled frontman Milo "I Don't Want to Grow Up" Aukerman on the first new Descendents LP since 2004's Cool to Be You. SoCal's proto-nerdcore smartasses have inevitably aged since their 1981 debut Fat EP, but you'd never know it from this caffeinated comeback, which crams 16 snap, crackle, and punk tracks into a 31-minute blast of pure pop-punk abandon. "Feel This" offers blunt, eyes-wide testimony to the health hardships of the Redondo Beach quartet's latter-day sainthood – a heart attack for bassist Karl Alvarez, skinsman Bill Stevenson's brain tumor.
The Descendents have never been concerned with working on any timeline but their own. The band’s lengthy periods of inactivity rival its time making records and touring, driven home by the fact that, though it’s existed for nearly four decades, it’s only released six studio albums. But 2016 has seen the band in the midst of its longest active streak, culminating in the release of Hypercaffiuam Spazzinate, the Descendents’ first record in 12 years, and most consistent in two decades.