Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
We had to wait 12 years, but the world finally has a new Descendents album. And depressingly, the band that didn’t want to grow up finally has. Then again, earlier this year, frontman and biochemist Milo Aukerman told Spin magazine that he’d quit working for chemical giant DuPont, to “try this whole music-as-a-career thing,” for the first time, at the age of 53.
From the first few seconds of opening track “Feel This” to the last of closer “Beyond the Music,” Hypercaffium Spazzinate purrs with raw rhythmic power. “Lead” bassist Karl Alvarez is a monster, punctuating the album with incredible, unmistakably finger-style flourishes. Backing him up, death-cheating drummer Bill Stevenson is truly one of a kind – such a unique, unchained and powerful style, that sounds surprisingly modern and in-touch as well.
Despite the wait, Hypercaffium Spazzinate doesn’t waste time on overindulgence – in fact, track five, “No Fat Burger,” is a grease-free ode to moderation and reeling it in for longevity. It’s no-nonsense; the perfect combination of Descendents’ influential brand of abrupt, geeky hardcore meets pop punk, with reflective, thoughtful, emotional lyrics and catchy melodies.
Song by song, Hypercaffium Spazzinate reveals how staggeringly influential Descendents have been, on everyone from Lagwagon and NOFX to Green Day and Blink-182. And even now, 34 years after their first studio album Milo Goes to College, they sound vital and alive. The lyrics are pensive and reflective, with topics ranging from death and illness to friendship, brotherhood, looking back and, ultimately, love. Everything you’d associate with getting old and lives well spent.
My favourite song, “Without Love,” is an instant classic; relevant, pertinent and understatedly beautiful. “Shameless Halo” is another standout, with the kind of rich, layered, catchy melodies made famous by L.A. punk rock legends Bad Religion. And songs like “On Paper,” “Victim of Me” and “Fighting Myself” keep Hypercaffium Spazzinate bubbling at a high-level.
Of course, there’s still time for an angry Aukerman to rage against the government, only this time, as a parent, furious with the limiter forced on his son, who was diagnosed with ADHD. It’s also interesting to see how well shared the credits are, with lyrics and songs coming from all four bandmembers.
In 1996 Descendents asked “What will I be like when I get old?” And even though Hypercaffium Spazzinate is dark and intense, it percolates with an air of putting the past to bed, optimism and trudging forward. Additionally, Descendents recently wrapped a quick-fire European tour and are about to launch into a full-scale U.S. one (and play São Paulo, Brazil in December) – so the future still looks pretty bright for Milo and co. Let’s just hope he still tries to grab his wife’s ass…