Sound — 8
In the intermittent but reliable ebb and flow of hiatuses and reunions of Descendents' career, the past decade was the most worrisome of them all. After working on 2004's "Cool to Be You" to reboot the band once again (to eventually settle back down to another hiatus), Descendents would dangle above fate when founding drummer and quintessential punk force Bill Stevenson was hospitalized for a brain tumor in 2008. Stevenson's recovery was a gradual journey back to 100%, but after 2014 showed him jumping back into the swing of things - having recorded another Only Crime album and producing Rise Against's seventh album, "The Black Market" - he also confirmed that the Descendents would be getting back in the saddle for another album soon enough.
On their seventh album, "Hypercaffium Spazzinate," Descendents continue with the modernized punk sound they updated to in "Cool to Be You," but plenty of aspects re-invoke the mentality of the band's classic era. As opposed to the previous album being the most guitar-focused album they've composed, the bass riffs are back on top this time around, heard in the "Milo Goes to College"-esque action in "On Paper," "Victim of Me," "Testosterone," and "Limiter," or the exemplary bass activity in "Fighting Myself" that wields a post-punk revival joviality akin to Maximo Park. Descendents also manage to bring back the bite-sized punk cuts from their early days, where the less-than-60-seconds songs of "No Fat Burger," "We Got Defeat," and "Human Being" bank on fleeting tempos and odd measurements.
But the most evident factor of "Hypercaffium Spazzinate" tapping back into the classic appeal of Descendents is its modest mentality towards its songwriting. Whether it's the skate punk grit of "Spineless and Scarlet Red," the anthemic chants in "Full Circle," the pop punk pep of "Comeback Kid," and the humble but sunny harmonies in "Smile," Descendents show that they still know how to stick to the simple nature of punk while still maintaining a varied offering of ideas in that realm.
Lyrics — 9
Being another combined effort of lyrical contributions from the whole band, Descendents tend to plenty of familiar topics in "Hypercaffium Spazzinate," whether it's the lamenting over unhealthy food in "No Fat Burger," the equally self-deprecating and reveling nerd status of "On Paper," or the turbulent romance in "Without Love." But compared to the lyrical matter of their past two albums being more love-centric, "Hypercaffium Spazzinate" focuses more on modern commentary - especially the theme of one trying to escape from problems instead of honestly solving them, heard in the anti-substance messages of "Feel This" and "Limiter," the lambasting of fundamentalist sanctimony in "Shameless Halo," the bigger-scale problems of society in "Human Being," or the introspective confessions in "Fighting Myself." And at the tail end of the album, Descendents take some moments to acknowledge how grateful they are to still be active, and with "Comeback Kid" referring to Stevenson's recovery ("You were facing elimination / So many people rooting for you / They'd do anything to see you through"), the final "Beyond the Music" is a happy reflection of the long and winding road they've traveled as a band ("Frustrato-rock or chainsaw pop / Or whatever it is we play / This is our family / And it will always be this way").
Overall Impression — 8
One could shallowly interpret the album's title and its short song executions as playing on the theme of a lack of focus, but in fact, "Hypercaffium Spazzinate" highlights the shrewd virtue of Descendents' songwriting that made "Milo Goes to College" such a standout debut for the band, and such a seminal record for punk music in general. Displaying the ability to deliver on ideas that capitalize on both brevity and diversity, "Hypercaffium Spazzinate" is another example to show the overproduced likes of contemporary punk what the real appeal of punk music is - it can be brief and unembellished while still executing the flavor and energy it sets to execute.