Review Summary: It has its moments of running in circles, but Hypercaffium Spazzinate feels young, even when the men behind it aren’t.
2016 is the year of the Pop Punk Midlife Crisis. The snot-nosed brats of Good Charlotte
have limped their way to adulthood with some of the year’s driest rock albums. Earlier this year, Yellowcard
announced that they’re calling it a day after a final tour, while Sum 41
will drop out another record in October. With The Offspring
and Green Day
already caving to their old age, it seems like the entire genre is in disarray. 2016 is a revelation for the pop punk groups of the 90’s and 2000’s, and that revelation is that they’re on life support. Old age and youthful pop punk music never got along with each other, contradicting themselves with awkward halfways that make the transition into adulthood feel jarring. The irony of this? The Descendents
, a band that has influenced practically every aging pop punk group of that era, has managed to make an album more energetic, more graceful, and more enjoyable than all of those bands. Combined
The Descendents are still considered cornerstones in the age of pop punk, giving influence to all of the Warped Tour staples of the 90’s and 2000’s. Their midlife crisis has already passed, and going in, I expected this album to meander in the same ways that The Offspring, or more recently, Blink-182 has. But Hypercaffium Spazzinate
is not dad punk. This album still has energy, recapturing much of the humor and hotheaded eloquence that brought pop punk into the mainstream. Bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson keep the punk rhythms at a comfortably accelerated pace, rarely bringing things down to even mid-tempo. Stephen Egerton delivers the abrasive power chords like a champ, as Milo Aukerman wails atop them. It’s remarkable that a band as venerable as The Descendents can stamp a date on their peers, all while delivering pop punk music that recaptures the bouncing spirit of its prime years. Defying all odds, Hypercaffium Spazzinate
is awake and alive.
But The Descendents have taken their adulthood much more elegantly than many of their peers and followers. Even when tackling their own leering maturity, the boys show plenty of ideas. “No Fat Burger” is a 43-second ode to fatty fast food that they no longer can eat, a joyously relatable song for anyone who is forced to watch their cholesterol in their maturity. “Fighting Myself” offers a poetically tongue-in-cheek chorus as Aukerman sings “I should have known fresh dirt won't wash old stains away.
” Even more serious tracks like “Unchanged” or the cheesy “band family” track “Beyond the Music” show a band in stride and not burnout. “Comeback Kid” is a real gem, with its endearing lyrics and great balance of sincerity and adolescent volatility. The Descendents are still making punk music, just with their adulthood along for the ride. It’s astonishing to see these kinds of topics being articulated through the lens of pop punk, catchy choruses and power chord blitzes intact. This is a group that’s retained their youthful, devil-may-care attitude, even in their 50’s, and in a time when old age is omnipresent in the genre, that’s pretty damn impressive.
Sadly, even with such energetic bursts of intrigue, Hypercaffium Spazzinate
does feel bloated. Songs like “We Got Defeat” and “Limiter” are uninteresting on their own, while the final five or so tracks (all from the Spazzhazard EP
, which is included on the deluxe edition of Hypercaffium Spazzinate
) show plenty of fatigue. Later tracks also lack more of the goofy verbosity heard in tracks like “On Paper” or “No Fat Burger.” By the time the album gets into its final stretch, every wrinkle is on display, and it becomes much harder to look past them. As solid as a track as “Unchanged” is, it simply can’t reach its best potential with 20 tracks before it. While it’s great to see The Descendents still pushing out two-minute crowdpleasers, there are admittedly spinning wheels aplenty on Hypercaffium Spazzinate
. There is some fat that could’ve been trimmed.
In a year where every group in the pop punk field is experiencing their own midlife crisis, leave it to the old guard of the genre to produce an album with actual guts. The Descendents haven’t reinvented the wheel on Hypercaffium Spazzinate
, instead sticking to their guns and staying the course. While Hypercaffium Spazzinate
has its share of filler, it still feels lively and the better moments outshine the duds. Between endearing anthems like “Comeback Kid” and off-kilter poetry of “Shameless Halo”, The Descendents capture so much of the awkward passion that the entire pop punk subgenre built itself on. It’s funny. It’s catchy. It’s a great balance of energy, sincerity, and charisma that shows the jaded pop punk scene how to deal with your maturity without running yourself dry. It has its moments of running in circles, but Hypercaffium Spazzinate
feels young, even when the men behind it aren’t.