When most people think about pop punk the first group of bands that are generally thought of are the like of Green Day, New Found Glory and blink-182. When you think you influenced those bands you automatically go straight to The Ramones but there was another band who was a big inspiration in the early days of pop punk. Of course the band I am speaking of is the Descendents. Ever since I first heard the Descendents I have been in love, they are the underdogs band. They were one of the first punk bands to sing songs about the struggles of growing up and getting girls, something almost every pop punk song is now about. Last year the documentary Filamge was released telling the story of the Descendents and their other band All. Earlier this year reports of a first Descendents album in a decade were confirmed. Here I am going back ten years to review their last album Cool To Be You released on Fat Wreck Chords.
The album starts off with Talking and that trademark Descendents sound is back in full effect. Stephen Egertons technical guitar, Bill Stevenson’s drumming and Karl Alvarez’s inventive bass playing all stand out from the start before Milo Aukerman’s vocal takes the song to a new level. This song about the strains of a long distant relationship is everything you would expect from the Descendents. Milo’s vocals take the forefront from the very start of the next song, Nothing With You. This is a hook filled song about how great it is to sit and do nothing with someone you love. My favourite lyrics are “Cause I All I Wanna Do, It Sit Around And Do Nothing With You, Because Nothing’s Only Fun When You’re There.” Track three She Don’t Care is a darker feeling track about being in a relationship where only one person shows the love. Karl Alvarez’s song writing here is extremely relatable. The darker feelings continue on the next track, the political ‘Merican. It is a song about the frustrations of the way their country is going and feeling embarrassed about some of the bad things it’s been involved in and the glossing over of such facts. Dog and Pony Completes a hat trick of Alvarez songs in a row. This one is another massively relatable song about not fitting in with the cool crowd on a night out.
For someone who is a doctor in biology you would be surprised to know the next song is about farting. That’s something I love about the Descendents, not only can that write incredible songs about not fitting in or the good and bad times of relationships but they can also write fantastic songs about flatulence. Even the most serious among us will have a hard time not singing along to the chorus of “Blast Off At Cape Canaveral, All Systems Go! Blast Off At Cape Canaveral, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast Off!”
We reach the halfway point in the album with Dreams. The song starts out questioning why people dream and saying that if you dream too big then you will wind up getting burnt. Before flipping the switch with some great gang vocals going “It’s Time to Get Up Off Your Ass, Pull Your Head Up Take A Chance, Grab Whatever You Can Grab.” Title track Cool To Be You is up next on the album. This song is about the frustrations of being an outsider and not feeling like you fit in anywhere and being jealous of people who do. Maddie is the first song written by the legendary Bill Stevenson on the record. This song is about fighting to keep the girl despite everyone else trying to keep you apart. This is one of the slower songs on the album.
The speed picks up during the next song Mass Nerder. Starting out with a complicated bass riff before Egerton’s guitar and Stevenson’s drums join the party in a full on punk rock assault. This song is all about being considered uncool at school for being a good student. The chorus of “Gonna Kick Their Asses In Class, Gonna Kick Their Asses In Class, Gonna Kick Their Asses In Class, Gonna Get Good Grades” is so simple but absolutely brilliant. Bill Stevenson takes song writing credits for the next track One More Day as well. This is a song he wrote after the death of his father about their troubled relationship. This is a very sombre song for the Descendents but more fantastic song writing.
Song number twelve is Tack, in this track Milo sings about trying to get out of a rut and finding a new life path to go down. Karl Alvarez’s bass playing really stands out during the last stretch of the song. Alvarez’s bass and Stephen Egerton’s guitar really stand out at the beginning of Anchor Grill as well . The Descendents can boast having three of the best musicians in punk rock amongst their rank. Anchor Grill goes back to the subject of love and finding the time to spend time together despite the pressures of grown up life. The album closes with the song Dry Spell. This song is about losing your creative spark and the missing the feeling of making something original. Isuspect Milo Aukerman is singing about the feeling he had when he decided to get back with Stevenson, Alvarez and Egerton to make a new Descendents album. Whatever the reason was I’m so glad that they did as Cool To Be You is another fantastic addition to the Descendents already amazing catalogue of work. I do hope the next album is out very soon, ten years is a long time to wait for something new from this legendary band.
Now listening to Sick-O-Me by Descendents