The Descendents have been dubbed one of the pioneers, if not the pioneers of pop punk, influencing everyone from Green Day and Blink 182, to Lagwagon and the entire Fat Wreck Chords catalog. While most of the punk scene in the late 70s and early 80s was about screaming, moshing, and flipping off the government, they wrote 30-second songs about coffee and girls (i.e. the lack of contact with them, basically self-deprecation at its finest). Dave Grohl himself said in Filmage (a documentary about the band, see more details below), that they had “this like shameless, love song aesthetic, ya know, none of the other bands had the balls to do that, everyone was screaming about Reagan or whatever…”
Their discography has been sporadic at best, primarily due to lead singer Milo Aukerman leaving the group to pursue a career in biochemistry. This is their first album in 12 years and third in 20 years. They have had about 4 reformations, including sister band All (essentially the Descendents without Milo). Now that Milo wants to focus on music and not botany, at least for now, and the fact that all these guys are in their early 50s, this might be the most stable iteration of them yet.
Now granted I have not yet explored the majority of their discography, but Hypercaffium Spazzinate certainly makes me want to. This is pop punk at its finest, more Dude Ranch Blink than Enema of the State Blink, and more NoFX and Lagwagon than anything from Drive Thru Records. Standout tracks include “Victim Of Me,” “Shameless Halo,” “On Paper,” and “Beyond the Music.” But the whole album flows really well, and the 5 tracks on the deluxe edition could be swapped for almost any of the proper tracks on the album. It’s very melodic, fun and catchy, but also deals with some more serious topics and has a few songs that are a bit “harder.” This is a band who has a signature song called “I Like Food” from their earlier days and now sing about “No Fat Burger.” At least they’re still talking about what’s relevant in their life and not afraid to show how they’ve aged. Aside from their most recent release, the album I’ve had the most experience with was their last one, Cool to Be You. I thought it had some standout tracks, especially the single (if it can be considered a single?), “Nothing With You.” But overall I thought a lot of the songs sounded more in the realm of Bad Religion or Pennywise than No User For a Name or the Bouncing Souls (I prefer the latter if you couldn’t already tell). Like I said, Hypercaffium Spazzinate sounds like a release off Fat Wreck Chords, but by guys who got their start way before that record label was formed. It sounds new and fresh and crisp yet without knowing the band’s history you can tell it’s from guys who have been in the scene for awhile, and still know how to write good punk songs.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been on this quest to find the “new punk,” basically a reiteration of the next generation of what I grew up on in high school and college. This is how I discovered the likes of The Gaslight Anthem (my current favorite band), Titus Andronicus, The Menzingers, Japandroids, The Front Bottoms, PUP, and numerous others. The Descendents latest release easily will be added to this mix, and I encourage those who want to feel nostalgic about their younger skater punk days while still enjoying where adulthood has taken them to give it a spin (or a stream, however people listen to new music these days).
- Feel This
- Victim of Me
- On Paper
- Shameless Halo
- No Fat Burger
- Without Love
- We Got Defeat
- Fighting Myself
- Spineless and the Scarlet Red
- Human Being
- Full Circle
- Comeback Kid
- Beyond the Music
- Days of Desperation
- Business A.U.
*Note that tracks 17-21 are part of the deluxe edition of the album
* Note that I recently watched this documentary, would suggest that anyone who is a fan of the Descendents/All, or just the genre in general, would really enjoy learning about their history.