Milo Returns From College. That should have been the title of seminal punk band, the Descendents, newest album after a twelve year recording hiatus. Granted, 53-year old lead singer Milo Aukerman received his PhD in Biochemistry long ago, back before he went to work as a research scientist at DuPont headquarters in Delaware. Before fellow bandmates Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton, and Karl Alvarez formed the side project All while waiting for Milo’s return. Before adulthood and raising families became a priority extension of the music they had played for years. Before drummer and founding member Bill Stevenson had a “grapefruit-sized tumor” removed, and before Milo became burnt out on the “macho” nature of the industrial chemistry game and was laid off from DuPont. While Milo took a number of hiatuses before deciding to returning full time to the Descendents this month, one thing has remained constant for the four middle-aged punks: Coffee.
Yes, the Descendents owe a lot to the highly caffeinated seed of the Coffea plant, including their signature, franticly paced style. With the entire band just over the age of 50, it also clearly helped in the recording of their aptly titled new album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, released today. Whether it’s coffee or a renewed passion for the band, the Descendents have managed to retain the same erratic timing and quick beat that made them punk legends; something not every band in that genre can claim. The track “Testosterone” retains the fierce vocals and fast tempo of early tracks like “Kabuki Girl” as a partially disgruntled Milo bashes the aggressive nature of the industry he recently left. The Descendents have always walked a fine line between hardcore and pop punk, and have managed to deftly blend the two styles on the album; switching back and forth between songs with sharp and rounded edges. The very next track after “Testosterone” — “Without Love” — immediately bears a stylistic resemblance to the pop punk-sounding track “Nothing With You”, off of their last album. The only part of the music that’s changed seems to be the production values, which can only be attributed to time and the advancement of technology.
However, a lot of things have changed for the members of the Descendents since their early days of punk, and it shows greatly in the lyrics. The band’s philosophy has always been summed up in one word that has appeared throughout the Descendents’ music: ALL. Conceived by Stevenson, he explains it simply in this 1987 interview: “It’s just a way of thinking, in which there are extremes and there is this goal called ‘ALL.’ It’s a way that I created in dealing with achievement and satisfaction and how the two relate. Basically just to avoid stagnation… going for “ALL” and never being satisfied and just wallowing in your own sameness.” The philosophy is evident not only in the band’s music, but in their personal lives as well; Milo getting his PhD, Stevenson overcoming a brain tumor with superhuman energy, and Eggerton and Alvarez’s constant commitment to music.
Milo has stated that the band still follows the philosophy of ALL, but that it’s taken on a new direction in later years. A prime example is the track “No Fat Burger”; or as Milo wanted to title it, “I Like Food 2016”. Whereas older Descendents’ songs like “I Like Food” and “Wienerschnitzel” glorified stuffing your face with greasy fast food, “No Fat Burger” is an ode to getting older and realizing – regrettably — that eating that way will kill you. While the song is so musically similar to songs written twenty years ago, the Descendents have come to terms with the fact that they aren’t the same kids they were back then; nobody is. Hypercaffium Spazzinate and Milo’s return to the band is proof that the Descendents have a renewed energy when it comes to giving their ALL musically; but after years of setbacks, new beginnings, and lessons it takes nearly a lifetime to learn, they’ve found that it doesn’t come down to ALL or nothing.