It’s been 12 years since seminal punk band Descendents released a new record. I’ve been lucky enough to see their live show twice in the last two years and they never disappoint. With their increased touring schedule in recent years and the fact that they previewed some new tunes in 2014 when I saw them in Pomona, California, it looked like they had some new music brewing. Now, we have a July 29 release of Hypercaffium Spazzinate. Fortunately, the fine folks at NPR are streaming the new record today and it is nothing short of fantastic.
You would never know this is a band that has been together for 39 years. The new record has an urgency to it that wasn’t seen as much on 2004’s Cool to Be You. It’s more raw and energetic than anything they’ve released in years. Imagine the musicianship of their 1996 release Everything Sux and the rawness of Milo Goes to College and you’ll be able to see where things are headed. Here’s a quick song by song breakdown:
- Feel This – 1:13 of fury, extremely catchy guitar riffs and vocals that grab you from the first line.
- Victim of Me – This song was released a few weeks ago as a teaser and I can’t stop listening to it! This song has the best bass line I’ve ever heard in a Descendents song, and that’s saying something because Karl Alvarez is probably the most melodic punk bassist in the history of the genre. I’ve been a bass player for more than 30 years and I’m still blown away at how creative Karl is in his songwriting.
- On Paper – Typical Descendents – and I mean that in a good way. Catchy, edgy and fun with clever lyrics. Self-effacing lyric writing at its finest.
- Shameless Halo – This is one of those songs that the crowd will sing along to at every show. Big riffs, super precise drums and a lead guitar riff coming out of each chorus that will make you pump your fist in the air.
- No Fat Burger – The old guy’s response to “Wienerschnitzel” – 44 seconds of concerns about greasy food and high cholesterol.
- Testosterone – Driving bass line and guitar work similar to some of my favorite tunes from Cool to be You but with an extra edge. Milo’s vocals on this one are edgy and impressive.
- Without Love – this one reminds me a lot of the minor chord progression of “One More Day” from their 2004 release. Solid song with fantastic, introspective lyrics.
- We Got Defeat – This song could have been released on Milo Goes To College. Seriously. The tempo changes are insane and the double beats in the chorus will have the pit going crazy.
- Smile – this song was written as an ode to drummer Bill Stevensen when he was dealing with a life threatening illness a few years ago. Heart wrenching lyrics, but twisted into a sweeping, driving melody. Typical Descendents, juxtaposing dark lyrics with catchy melodies.
- Limiter – kicks off with a great bass solo with another one at the breakdown in the middle. Rapid fire drumming and urgent lyrics carry it the rest of the way through. This is a raw song in the best possible way.
- Fighting Myself – Upper register, frantic bass playing to kick it off. Very melodic tune and one of the more interesting guitar progressions on the record. Stephen Egerton is probably one of the most underrated guitarists in punk. He has a very unique style and consistently puts out unexpected chord progressions that just work.
- Spineless and Scarlet Red – Excellent song from start to finish. This one has a drive and darkness to it that feels sooooooo good. Honestly, songs like this one make me wonder why the Descendents aren’t wealthy men right now. Better than anything you’ll hear on the radio.
- Full Circle – This is a PIT SONG. The Descendents don’t normally have hook lines where the whole band is shouting together. Well, this one does. When the whole band yells, “Keep Me Alive!” you’ll find yourself yelling along with it.
- Comeback Kid – GREAT bass line throughout. By this point in the record, it starts to sound like a “How to Write a Great Pop Punk Song” lesson. It’s that solid. Very catchy chorus and another sing along break in the middle of the song.
- Beyond the Music – This sounds almost like an outtake from Cool to be You. It’s a great tribute to each other as the song talks about their 30+ years together as a band and their friendship, “This is our family and it will always be that way, beyond the music.”
As a Descendents fanboy, I could’t be happier about this record. There are things about all of their records that I love, but it always felt like the early releases were completely different than Everything Sux and Cool to be You. Hypercaffium Spazzinate seems to bridge that gap by capturing the energy and reckless abandon of their early work with the skilled musicianship and songwriting of their last two releases. They already have some festival shows scheduled in the late summer and fall and I’m hoping that turns into a full headlining tour after that. This band has meant more to me than I can put into words. They’ve gotten me through some hard times and celebrated with me through the good times. Hypercaffium Spazzinate just sums it all up in a big celebration of top notch music!