Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
The godfathers of SoCal pop-punk are back! Ok, their first record in 12 years doesn’t sound much like progress. Karl Alvarez’ loping bassline on Victim Of Me could’ve been lifted entirely from their 1982 debut Milo Goes to College; ditto the self-referential, hi-speed daftness of No Fat Burger. But who are we kidding? For anyone excited at the prospect of a new Descendents record in 2016, progress is almost certainly an afterthought. Besides, more of the same sounds pretty good – bold yet breezy numbers like Comeback Kid and Without Love illustrate their melodic sensibilities in spades, while shorter slices of guts'n'goonery (both obtuse and effortless) are delivered with fervour.
Admittedly, there's one problematic moment: On Paper distastefully and carelessly asserts that its narrator has the social appeal of a ‘serial raper’ (that sound you heard was a head hitting the desk in frustration). 'But punk was meant to be offensive,' we hear some dissenting voices cry, and to an extent that was true of the socially conservative Reaganite America where hardcore punk first crystalised – Ian MacKaye may have had a different opinion over in DC, mind.
In any case, it's no excuse for sexual violence to be trivialised for the sake of an easy rhyme: too much time has passed, and both punk and people in general have moved on. Have a think, eh lads? That's a stinker of an album title too, although if we're feeling especially generous then perhaps we can put this down to our British sensibilities being upset by a horrendously offensive word that doesn't evoke the same connections across the Atlantic. Oh, language! Shite though.
Anyway, if you're willing sidestep these issues – a big ‘if’, for sure – there’s plenty to fall for: the band are on fire and frontman Milo Aukerman sounds as brattily energised as ever. Lyrically there are far more positives than negatives: they're confident and pretty damn cool when handling issues like the pharmaceutical industry (it's bad), or taking ownership of your own faults (it's good).
Ultimately, for all the bands who tried to ape Descendents over the years, no one ever really managed to sound quite like them; there's a unique approach to rhythm and structure that keeps 'em fresh, and occasionally even makes Hypercaffium feel like something of a triumph. It’s unlikely to bend too many fresh young minds to their cause, but nearly 40 years since the band first formed, that seems like a secondary concern. Some reservations, but good work all in.