Descendents – [Album]

Descendents – [Album]

Thursday, 04 August 2016

The Descendents
Hypercaffium Spazzinate
(Epitaph Records)
The differences in the performance and presentation of Hypercaffium Spazzinate from every other Descendents album are subtle but evident from the moment “Feel This” screeches in to open the album. There, while the tempo of the drums and guitar are precisely at the speed fans would expect them to be (at that of an over-caffeinated blur, of course), the tone in Milo’s voice has changed to reflect a different demeanor from that of any of the ones which have appeared on The Descendents’ previous albums; a little deeper, less nasal and a little more hardened than ever before, Milo’s voice sounds a litle harder worked than it ever has before (which may just be due to the fact that the band has toured harder in recent years than they ever hae before, but it’s still worth pointing out). Regardless, fans will have no problem falling in line and loving it as the band rails its way through the song at a breakneck pace and Aukerman offers up gems like, “Busted heart, my brain is beat yeah/ Don’t want a doctor/ Need zero anesthetic to make me numb/ Escape is easy and everybody’s offering” because the spirit and energy is precisely what they’ve always expected from this band – nothing appears diminished at all. That energy continues through “Victim Of Me,” “On Paper” and “Shameless Halo” too; in each of those cases, guitarist Stephen Egerton zooms through with such speed and metered consistency that it seems as though he might be playing his guitar with a whipper-snipper, while drummer Bill Stevenson hammers through with even more power and precision on his kit than he’s showcased before. Hypercaffium Spazzinate truly does blaze through its early playing like a charmed offering.

At about the midpoint of the album, The Descendents begin boldly examining their age as the tape rolls but, rather than just feeling like a trite concession of fact (like saying “Okay – we’re fifty!” like The Ramones did when they released their farewell album, Adios Amigos), the band has a little fun with it instead. On “No Fat Burger,” for example, Aukerman bemoans the fact that he doesn’t get to indulge is favorite culinary subject (greasy food) anymore, as he complains “Can’t have no more juicy burgers/ Can’t have no more greasy fries/ Doctor took my lipid profile/ He told me I’m barely alive,” before punctuating it all with the sour point (which echoes back to the band’s 1981, Bonus Fat EP) “No more fat/ No more fat/ I like food, but all the food that tastes good…/ I can’t have that.” In that, longtime fans will giggle because the venom in Aukerman’s voice is impossible to miss and illustrates that the singer hs aged well because he’s actually accepting his age; it doesn’t happen often in punk rock, but it does here and works incredibly well. It proves to work very well in “Testosterone” (where the band looks at hormone therapy in a more ironic way than they once did at not being the tough guy back in 1984), Without Love” (where the band concedes that they never grew beyond the socially awkward stance that they’ve been stuck in since the early Eighties) and “Full Circle” (where the band rightly observes that, while they may have come far, they never quite left places they knew and people they were back at the dawn of their career); of course, none of these subjects are new, but they’re approached from a very different vantage which makes them feel fresh and exciting all over again.

The record continues along its familiar but new path (with particular highlights in the forms of “Limiter” and “Comeback Kid”) and, even though some of the landmarks along the way seem familiar, listeners will find they’re looking on them freshly and excitedly in this new context. That the band is able to make it so easy to do that here is nothing short of astounding really; here, The Descendents not only manage to retain every quirk and trait which has always made them endearing to fans for the last forty years, they’re able to present them in a way which makes this album feel like a new growth or personal extension for the band. How they’ve done it is unclear and, because of that, listeners will find themselves feeling the magic. Twenty years ago, Milo Aukerman wondered what it would be like when he got old, and now the answer’s plain: Hypercaffium Spazzinate proves he and the rest of The Descendents haven’t lost a step and are still more than capable of making a great record. [BILL ADAMS]


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – The Classics 019 – Descendents –
Milo Goes To College

Hypercaffium Spazzinate is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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