Let’s get one thing straight. Descendents are punk, even though I may mention pop punk in this review. Sorry in advance to the hardcore. A massive influence on countless others, they begat Green Day as Green Day begat Blink 182 who in turn begat bands like Brand New and Modern Baseball. Along with NOFX, they made the template for pop-punk (there it is). Those later bands now sell out arenas or have rock operas on Broadway, although this success has come at a cost, what with addiction issues, rehab vacations, dodgy reality shows and artistic credibility concerning grown men questioning their age again.
Descendents, and bands from the second wave of American punk, such as Dead Kennedys and The Exploited did not benefit from Nirvana’s success in the same way the aforementioned Green Day and The Offspring did, despite being the handles on the doors that opened for many ‘alternative’ musicians post-Nevermind. Truth be told, although they’ve never bothered the Billboard charts or the Grammys, this lack of mainstream success hasn’t been without its virtues, allowing Descendents to have stayed under the radar and work their day jobs (singer Milo Aukerman until recently was a full time biochemist) whilst still going into the studio every few years to make and record music together. In a sense, because we’ve never seen much of them, they’ve not grown old so they can get away with making snotty speed-punk, even as they approach their mid-fifties.
Hypercaffium Spazzinate is the Californians’ first album in 12 years, and with 16 songs clocking in around 30 minutes, it’s a fairly typical Descendents record. There’s a jokey nod to their past on ‘No Fat Burger’ while ‘Without Love’ shows that their knack for melody hasn’t deserted them. Lyrically, there’s maturity on tracks like ‘Smile’ where Aukerman puts an arm round the shoulder of drummer Bill Stevenson who had life-threatening health issues a few years ago. And on ‘Beyond The Music’, which is an ode to self, a celebration of their longevity.
This album is a good entry point for those unfamiliar with the band, although first timers should probably head to the 1982 debut Milo Goes To College. However, because there’s not an awful lot of difference sonically between that record and this, one can jump in here and quickly get to the essence of what Descendents do – snottiness, melody, brevity and speed. There’s nothing too deep or introspective going on here. This is just a good f**king noisy party record, which is what Descendents have been doing for forty years. You wouldn’t want it any other way.