7 August 2016

Descendents - Hypercaffium Spazzinate

The word legend is thrown around a little too easily these days, sometimes without any really proof that the act in question is really legendary.  With the Descendents, I think even though I have never really been head over heels for the band, I can actually see why they have been described as legendary and why their fans are so fanatical at times.  Formed in 1977, the band have been kept fresh by regular hiatus as the members pursue other careers and it always means that when the band come back, they have something new to bring to the table.  This time, it looks like it could be a little more than before as the frontman Milo Aukerman has stated he wants to leave his career as a scientific researcher to focus on the Descendents full time.  So due to the breaks, this is the seventh studio album that the band have released.  The band consist of
Karl Alvarez on Bass,  Stephen Egerton on Guitar, Bill Stevenson on Drums & Mr Milo on Vocals.  We have looked at the Descendents before, when I reviewed 'Everything Sucks' (review cleverly linked here) back when the blog was still new.  I was not over impressed at the time, but over time I have actually came back to the album and it is something I have enjoyed.  So when I heard that this album was coming, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the joint kings of the short, sharp punk anthem (joint top with Discharge for me) and see what they have to say in 2016.  I will look at the regular release of the album, as the deluxe has 21 tracks and I think it is best to look at the original 16 tracks and I think you can make up your own mind up about the reminding five songs.

Starting the album is “Feel This”, which starts is your standard Descendents opening; short and shouty, a little aggression to the sound, mostly it is a cry for help and wanting to feel has a tangible sense of contact.  The song is a great opening, just the right length for this type of album and no rocking the boat at all with this tale of angst and isolation.  “Victim of Me” is the next song and this was the first tune to be released from the album and it is once again as you would expect.  Just over a minute and a half in length, this time it is all about being a prisoner to oneself and the need to not be a victim of your own neurosis and fears.  Let us be honest here, the wheel is not being reinvented here, but it sounds so fun and would you really want changes to be made to this song?  It is perfect as it is and it just hits the spot in terms of energy, message and general crazy vibes.  “On Paper” Does the classic punk album step of taking the energy down by the smallest degree, adding a large sense of self-deprecation and adding a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll to the proceedings.  It is a song that could be used for hitting the dancefloor and having a bounce around, it is still full of energy and the mocking nature of the lyrics is something that will make people laugh a lot as well.  “Shameless Halo” is about someone who is so(allegedly) good, so holier than thou that they are as evil as the serpent from the Old Testament.  A judgemental song about the irony of fanatical Christians is such an ironic image in the media these days and it is good to hear that it is still alive and well in this day and age when we are taught by the television that we must follow blindly and fear what we do not know, one of the best songs of the album and one of the best of their career.  “No Fat Burger” is a song about healthy eating and being told that your bad eating habits have took their toll on the body and it is time for a diet to keep the spectre of a heart attack at bay.  It is over in under a minute, fast lyrics, fast guitars, drums and bass and it is what you want from a punk song – short, sharp and to the fucking point.

“Testosterone” is a song about cheating your way to that perfect body, wanting everything now and not giving a damn about who gets hurt along the way.  It has that aggressive undertones, full of rage and attitude.  How can people not get this sort of song, it is just one of those numbers where everything works so fucking well and it is too the point as well.  “Without Love” is the longest song of the album (by a few seconds to be honest), it is a song about not being able to live without love in your life as people yearn for it, fight for it, require it to live.  It is a beautiful number, it gets it all just about right with enough to make the hardcore fans bounce around, the casuals will identify with the need to express oneself and all in all, it is as good a punk love song that you will ever hear.  “We Got Defeat” is another sub-minute song that is about being defeated and how to learn from it, moving on and winning next time.  To be honest, it is the first song on the album that does not make a big impact (in comparison to the other songs on the record.  I have heard a lot worse, I have heard a lot better as well to be honest.  “Smile” is a lot better and takes on a different topic, this time we are looking into helping someone who is not in a happy place and the desperation that is associated with trying to help a person when everything is going wrong for them.  It is a sad song from that prospective, you can hear the concern in the words and it is something that will be all too familiar to people; but it is a brilliant number, composed with care, dignity and compassion – I love it, it is brilliant and one of my current favourites.  “Limiter” is a song about being given too much medication and being controlled, being told you cannot reach your full potential.  It is an aggressive number, being told that you need to be controlled and that everything can be solved by a pill and the real issues are to be ignored.  It is a powerful message, well-constructed and informative, a number that gives you a reason to bounce around and also food for thought.

The eleventh song of the album is called “Fighting Myself” and this song is one that grows on you, it is a song about being one’s own worst enemy and the self-destructive nature of people.  When I first heard it I thought it was alright, a few listens later it was good, now it is my favourite song on the whole record – it is just something that I can identify with so much, being at war with yourself and this will let people know that they are not alone; knowing that other people has a similar experience is a help at times and this will be a great help to a lot of other people out there.  “Spineless and Scarlet Red” is a song about a dysfunctional relationship, a place where communication is no longer constructive and where lies are the common currency of the environment.  It is a darker number, there is little hope in the tone of the music either – once again the band have made a powerful statement, mixing punk with an emotive and powerful set of lyrics and it sounds fantastic.  “Human Being” is the shortest song on the album, just over forty seconds in length, kicking down the door at the beginning, discusses the state of humanity and out through the window without so much as a bye or leave – fun and educational.  “Full Circle” is a song about ending up where you once began, finding out that what you loved in your youth is what you will always love.  For the band, it is punk rock and all that comes along with; I get this as it sings to a lot of things in my life, I do this as a hobby and all I tend to think about is music, so it is something that rings true with me in a different, yet similar type of way.  The penultimate song is called “Comeback Kid” is about cheering on the underdog, wanting the little guy to win and to take all the glory.  Yeah it is a little throw away, yeah I have heard better songs, yeah it is a little simplistic – but that does not mean that it does not have a place on this album, in my life and in my heart.  Much like the subject of the song, you cheer it on and it will make a smile appear on your face.  Ending the album is “Beyond The Music” boils the down the essence of the band to the four men in a room, making the music and that is the only point of their existence.  It is a decent nostalgia song, a look back at their life as a band and it’s a reflective point to end the album on.

I have listened to a lot of albums recently when the artists in questions have gone for the shorter song.  Sometimes it has worked such as with Dot Dash, sometimes less so as with Eve Maret; I can safely say that the Descendents have got it spot on, they have been doing it for so long that they have distilled the formula and made it their own.  It is not something that is going to change the world in the way that a political statement, but it could change someone’s outlook on the world and make them see things in a new light.  It is a fun album, there is some hints of midlife kicking in and the reflective nature hints at events outside the band taking their toll on the band in one way; but they have made it into a positive, they have turned it into a killer album and in life, sometimes that is all you can ask for!

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....

Top track - Fighting Myself

You can purchase Hypercaffium Spazzinate from Amazon here

You can visit the Descendents Tumblr here (this acts as their website)

You can follow the activities of the Descendents on Facebook here

You can stream the deluxe version of Hypercaffium Spazzinate on Spotify here

You can stream the deluxe version of Hypercaffium Spazzinate on Deezer here

You can stream the deluxe version of Hypercaffium Spazzinate on Tidal here

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