By Luigi Sibona
To brutally hyperbolise pop music history, two bands created pop-punk in the guise we know it today – there was The Buzzcocks in the UK and there was Descendents in the US. Take your Green Days and your Blinks or any other pop-punkers now living in mansions playing sold-out stadiums… none of them would exist if it wasn’t for this gang of rejection and caffeine fuelled kids. Now, Decendents are back after a 12-year sabbatical from the recording studio with ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ and set on reminding us why their fragrant brand of punk still sounds so vital.
At 30 minutes and some change, ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ 16 tracks zip by at a hell of a clip. Opening with ‘Feel This’, it does just what it says on the tin kicking proceedings off at a breakneck pace and heading straight into the first single, ‘Victim Of Me‘. Setting its stall out early on, the album shuns any apprehensions you may have had of a loss of dynamism. On Paper updates the formula of tracks like ‘Mass Nerder’, speaking to the put upon and socially awkward, still showing that the punk attitude is just as applicable to getting picked on in school as being anti-authoritarian.
The albums themes at first glance are the same subversive witticisms on love, being a nerd and fast food that have been a staple of Descendents since day one. The songs work on the instantly relatable infectious way they always have but with a touch more retrospection. The guys who sung Parents – “they’re so fucked up”, are now parents themselves. Those same guys who sung chirpy odes to fast food now have to be concerned about heart disease in ‘No Fat Burger’. The album plays on it own terms but when taken in the context of Descendents’ recurring themes it’s wonderfully inter-textual.
It’s so easy to say something is ‘good, but nothing more’ but for once, nothing more is exactly what the doctor ordered. ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ is everything it should be, as lean as the no fat burgers they sing about. It’s the catchy bare bones punk rock descendants made their name in. Tracks like ‘Shameless Hero’ and ‘Full Circle’ fall a bit flat but they’re good tunes and when you’ve got Bill Stevenson’s hammering drums and Milo Aukerman’s forever young pipes pulling it all together its still incredibly easy listening. The pop sensibilities that made their music stick for so many are still front and centre with songs like ‘Without Love’ and ‘Smile’ really putting Blink 182’s recent outing into context.
They close the album on ‘Beyond The Music’, a love letter between a band that have an unfathomable chemistry and a tangible, youthful bond – a sweet pay off to fans who’ve followed Descendents though their various incarnations and personal struggles.
These guys made one of, if not the most iconic punk rock album of the 80s in ‘Milo Goes To College’, then again with ‘Everything Sucks’ in the 90s. 2004’s ‘Cool To Be You’ may not have been the indelible classics those prior records were but it was a damn strong record, achieving everything ‘American Idiot’ failed to in the same year with one song, ‘Merican.’ Four decades down the line and now here we are.
Descendents made it work in 82 and they’ve lost none of their integrity in the years since. There is nothing stale on show here, zero slack, and over 38 years on Descendents sound just as uncompromising, infectious and relevant as ever.