July 29th, 2016 should’ve been a national holiday for punk rock in literal form. Both coasts represented ostentatiously by the legends of the sport, left and right, East and West. The almighty Descendents representing spritely for the left coast and the ever-boisterous Bouncing Souls anchoring the east coasters, with a combined mass of just short of 60 punk rock years among them both release two of their most prominent offerings to date.
The anthemic godfathers of the group chorus and New Brunswick, New Jersey’s best bragging right decided to put on wax a crossbreed of their earlier works a’la personal favorite, the timeless punk masterpiece How I Spent My Summer Vacation and their advanced take on life as ever-evolving adults. The result, a stout speaker blazer with Pete Steinkopf’s familiar licks surfing a white top-less Atlantic Ocean steered fiercely by Brian Kienlen’s choppy low end and George Rebelo’s relentless anti-shuffle on the beaters, all the while led by Greg Attonito’s PMA-esque vocal offerings high atop the proverbial crow’s nest. His lyrics sharp as leather vest spikes yet adversely soothing in both content and delivery. Poems of hurt and love, rebuild and repair, extra-terrestrials and even bees – paying homage to solar systems, mental unrest, and our infrastructural breakdown. Simplicity is anything but simple.
Societal soliloquies and life lessons are eternally at the heart of many a Bouncing Souls record – Simplicity doesn’t steer far of course – it conversely travels that route through a Nor’easter. From the New Brunswick basement parties to selling out the outdoor stage at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony in a mere 20 years, the foursome has kept their ethos and grass roots beginnings as the nucleus of the operation. Bringing perfect punk rock and positivity to an otherwise obnoxious state of music and, dare I say, music business for this their tenth record is the stuffs of legend, especially in the year 2016. Simplicity is simply a razor sharp record from the slicing first chord of “Driving All Night” to the existential acoustic fadeout of album closer and pop gem, “Up To Us”. “We gotta keep on trying even though our heroes are dying”, a truth no better told.
1978 saw the year before I was born and the birth of the loudest nerd rock band in history, the Descendents. Today’s lineup of Karl Alvarez’s meat cleaver bass licks, Stephen Edgerton’s Paul Reed Smith guitars being submitted to a beating it never imagined as a luscious forest hardwood, the round mound of the Descendent’s sound with the fastest wrists in history, Bill Stevenson, and everyone’s favorite punk hollering scientist Milo Aukerman.
Ultimately scrapping the dick jokes and sexed up lyrics for speedy audible treats about fatty foods, testosterone, loser anthems, spazz drugs, and a 38 year career look-back in the touching ditty and record closer, “Beyond The Music”, Hypercaffium Spazzinate is just the shot a stagnant scene needs. The content is perhaps a bit wiser, but there is absolutely no shortage of blistering 2 minute gutter pop punk. There’s even a nod to the cleaned up sound of the Enjoy record in all its toilet papered glory with the 3 min plus, bubble gum sweet “Smile” that will make any person with a soul do just that.
Hypercaffium Spazzinate is a summery breath of hard ass two and three chord punk rock in its purest essence, picking up from 2004’s Cool To Be You as if they tracked them weeks apart. Older, wiser, and just as loud, if not louder, my ears are still healing from Asbury Park’s Punk Rock Bowling event where they literally had to pull the plug on Milo as the band was clearly amidst, flourishing in working out new songs in the form of encores and flailing audience bodies. “Notes and chords mean everything to me”, simply a perfect punk gem embracing defeat, coming back, carrying on, embracing the inner weirdo/outcast mentality, and boundless energy. If you ask the Descendents, 50 is the new fuck you. “Notes and chords mean everything to me”. Me too, fellas…me too.
Both records are a concrete solid representation of true American punk ethos, both sonically and as an intrinsic way of life. Both bands sport a bit of a ‘been there, done that’ air, deservedly so as both are well beyond legendary status on both respective coasts. Each band are huge fans of the other and their interlocking arms akimbo hugging this twisted nation from East and West, yet trying to keep it together in their own formidable love, love for music, love for life, love for family, and fans. Cloaking us all in power chords kisses and heavy melodies as hugs, both albums find that common theme of love more than once. Love is all we need, and of course basses, drums, guitars, and something to say. If they’re not careful, The Bouncing Souls and the Descendents might actually make a career of this…
Originally published at Glide Magazine 8/8/16