For Fans Of
To reiterate the above summary; the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.
When Descendents released ‘Milo Goes To College’ in 1982 and ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up‘ in 1985, our world was a very different place. As for some context, since their inception through to 1987’s ‘All’ and the band’s first hiatus, The Berlin Wall still stood oppressively tall. The Soviet fucking Union was still together. I hadn’t even been born yet, and people didn’t walk around catching Pokémon on their goddamn mobile phones. Hell, even Pokémon and mobile phones, at least as we know them today, weren’t even established products or brands at that point.
But it’s 2016 and regardless of the arbitrary numbers we give to the flow of time, I think it’s safe to say that Descendents will always sound like, well, them. For better and most definitely for worse.
Technically, ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ is their third comeback record, as their first ever comeback record was 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’ & their second was 2004’s ‘Cool To Be You‘. But whatever, that ain’t important! What’s important is that this album shares the same name as a new compound that singer Milo Aukerman discovered during his tenure as a biochemist. It’s even being added to the periodic table, and with that gesture, there you have it, folks – punk rock’s one and only contribution to science.
Advancements in the potency of coffee aside, I find that the adherence to a particular scientific formula is an apt comparison to make for this new effort. Everything here, and I do mean everything, is just the Descendents usual brand of campy melodic punk rock. The power-chords and buzzsaw-like guitar riffs, the groovy bass lines, drummer Bill Stevenson’s simple but solid fills and double-time drumming, Aukerman’s droning yet welcoming vocals, the often tongue n’ cheek lyrics; it’s just all so…expected!
The band has just blindly copied down their musical formula here. Kinda like a high school student mechanically copying down formulas from the board, just so the teacher hopefully won’t notice they’ve been drooling on their chin for the past hour or so. Of course, I was never expecting the band to suddenly unleash instrumental jazz breaks into the middle of their songs or have massive sub-drops and biting dubstep synth appear, but good god, the inclusion of either of those two would have made for a strange, albeit more interesting listen.
Punk rock purists and die-hard fans who’ve been in the long haul for far too long now will most definitely scoff at me in saying all that, but tough, it’s my review. So let me continue by saying that these 16 songs are mostly inoffensive, stock-standard tracks from a band that was once a genre staple. For instance, ‘No Fat Burger’ is so lackluster that it’s hardly worth mentioning, the vocal hooks on ‘Shameless Halo’ make my eyes roll out of their damn sockets, and while I can really dig the incredibly touching odes to Stevenson conquering his physical health demons on ‘Smile’ & ‘Comeback Kid‘, the melodies and lack of sonic impact in general lets them down somewhat.
The inclusion of seemingly filler tracks like ‘Limiter‘ and Human Being‘ also doesn’t help what is already a run-of-the-mill release, to begin with. Of course, ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate‘ isn’t completely devoid of good tunes. The upbeat ‘Without Love‘ (easily my favourite song on offer) is a grand pop-punk jam that sticks clear of being too cheesy. ‘On Paper‘ shows some great word-play with its lyrics and meaning, and is actually memorable. Shocking, I know. Then the solid opening pair of ‘Feel This‘ & ‘Victim Of Me‘ are both sharp and to the point, but not pointless like the later, far shorter songs prove.
Look, I can appreciate the musical consistency and the sticking-to-your-guns nature this band presents with each release. However, when I can correctly guess the chorus’s hooks and the key lyric(s) just by looking at the song names prior to even hearing the damn album, something has really gotta give. Changing genres and reinventing yourself isn’t always necessary, but goddamnit guys, it must be tiring flogging that horse.
‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ shows that while Descendents may be one of punk rock’s most iconic bands, that doesn’t mean that they can forever remain vibrant and engaging in their new music. I for one am very happy to still see this band playing music after so long in the game, but I cannot forgive the host of severely average songs that litter the landscape of album number seven.
However, I will say that at least half of these 16 songs held my attention better than Blink-182’s new album, which also featured 16 songs, most of which should’ve been left on the cutting room floor where they fucking belonged.
1. Feel This
2. Victim Of Me
3. On Paper
4. Shameless Halo
5. No Fat Burger
7. Without Love
8. We Got Defeat
11. Fighting Myself
12. Spineless & Scarlet Red
13. Human Being
14. Full Circle
15. Comeback Kid
16. Beyond The Music
‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ is out now via Epitaph Records. You can spaz out to it here.