You have to hand it to the Descendents for consistently doing what they’ve always done and doing it the way their fans like it. With their latest work Hypercaffium Spazzinate for Epitaph records, there are no notions of maturity or experimentation or asking their legions of fans to follow them down a new path. On the contrary, the record could quite easily and indistinguishably fit in with most of their previous catalog with perhaps minor but notable differences in production quality. It’s their first record on Epitaph since its spiritual ancestor Everything Sucks in 1996. When a band has reached the sort of legendary status that Descendents have, Epitaph seems like a suitable partner.

At first glance, Hypercaffium Spazzinate is a generous album of 21 songs. That is, until you realize that the vast majority are in the two-minute ball park. Some tracks like “On Paper,” which laments a lack of aesthetic appeal despite a high intellect, are exactly in the wheelhouse of what you expect to hear. While it’s somewhat repetitive, it elicits a chuckle and, for some, it would certainly be relatable. The highlights are when the album plays up the pop melody aspects of their songwriting prowess, as seen on “Without Love” and “Shameless Halo.” Stephen Egerton does a great job on guitar work which, unfortunately, will probably remind many listeners (young and old) of Green Day’s Dookie. How strange that we’ve come to a place where legendary music acts survive to live through the success and eventual decline of those they’ve influenced. And then release another original album.

“No Fat Burger” is a silly hardcore song reminiscent of era-mates M.O.D. and S.O.D. but significantly less filthy. “Testosterone” just sort of comes off like boring filler. “Smile” goes for something which is about as original as the rest of the record by adding backing vocals and a weak attempt at harmonizing. Overall, though, there’s no hook. Normally when you’re listening to a record, there’s at least one track that sparks a flame. There’s usually at least one track that goes into your frequent play list, often becomes the first single and sort of symbolically represents the entire effort. Given that the effort here is on making more music like the other music they’ve made in the past, it’s difficult to find that one thing.

“Fighting Myself” nicely turns down the faux frustration for a bit of healthy moaning and self-pity. At half way through the record, it’s regrettable that this is the first song like this we’ve heard. It’s a refreshing change in an album that’s been notably monotone. There are other tracks like this, including “Spineless and Scarlett Red”. All share the punchy, live-wire guitar vibe, but it’s not enough to maintain long term interest.

It must be noted that “Days of Desperation” feels like the exact same riff as 1994’s “Sick of Me.” It’s difficult to believe that they’d simply recycle an old riff, but the two songs are similar enough in musical content that it almost inspires a nostalgic appreciation. You can sing along with either one. And let’s face it, at this point in 2016, that’s exactly why the Descendents are still selling records. This isn’t a bad album, but it doesn’t really matter whether it is or not. Few bands make it to this stage in their career and put the same emphasis on doing fresh material. They’re either phoning it in or simply falling on their faces without an understanding of changing audiences. The Descendents know exactly who their audience is. They’re going to listen to this record because “Coolidge” was awesome, because people have drawings of Milo tattooed on their sleeves and because they showed us that punk could be about girls, feelings and rebelling against your parents rather than politics.

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