During the halcyon days of Los Angeles punk, the Descendents’ sound stood out for its quirky, blind rage. Their debut, Milo Goes to College, stands as one of the era’s most beloved albums. But its title was no joke — lead singer Milo Aukerman left the band in 1982 to study biochemistry, and after drummer Bill Stevenson joined legendary art punk band Black Flag, the Descendents disappeared.
Though the group reformed in 1985, they have never been able to pin down the same charm of their first LP. The four projects that followed ranged from their most recent pop rock endeavour Cool to Be You to the more hardcore I Don’t Want to Grow Up, the inconsistency ruining much of the charm of Aukerman’s songwriting. However, with their new record, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, the Descendents return to form with some success, crafting both emotional and comical moments to create an eclectic and impressive experience.
In typical Descendents fashion, Hypercaffium Spazzinate’s tracklist finds itself riddled with concise tracks, often clocking in at under a minute and a half. At times, songs such as “Limiter” and “Human Being” feel like demos rather than fully thought-out tracks. But instead of sticking to this unpolished production style, the Descendents’ two usual producers, drummer Stevenson and guitarist Stephen Egerton, play more active roles behind the mixing board. Although certain songs come off more canned and calculated, the emotional moments on the project greatly benefit from the complex, cohesive blend of guitar and drums.
Of the record’s heartfelt moments, most center on Stevenson’s battle with severe health issues during the band’s most recent hiatus. The invigorating “Smile” is easily a highlight, conveying a wholehearted message about the importance of staying positive during tough times. “Beyond the Music,” which is similar to the approach of “Smile,” summarizes the band’s, and particularly Stevenson’s, journey in music and life.
But the Descendents haven’t lost their wit and humor. “No Fat Burger” is a fast-paced, 43-second jaunt dedicated to the futile resistance of fast food. Almost no subjects are off limits — topics range from the world’s nuclear weapons to the cyclical nature of the band’s style to Aukerman’s mixed relationship with testosterone.
Regardless of subject, each of the record’s 16 tracks is full of traditional punk riffs and fantastic performances. After a while, a few tracks blend into the mix, but most stand out as notable and memorable moments. Hypercaffium Spazzinate pays homage to the group’s classic style with a slightly softer spin.
Overall, the Descendents comeback LP harkens back to their original spontaneous and messy sound while bringing a bit of sophistication into the mix — perfect for longtime fans. No matter their future, the Descendents proved they have what it takes to come back strong with an album as consistently entertaining as Hypercaffium Spazzinate, and hopefully their continue to grow as a group and expand into other genres.
- Album: Hypercaffium Spazzinate
- Tracks: 16
- Genre: Punk rock/Pop punk
- Rating: 7/10