Descendents

Cool to Be You

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Released in 2004, Cool to Be You is the first Descendents album since Everything Sucks was issued in 1996. Luckily, the only thing that has changed about the band is their switching of record labels from Epitaph to Fat Wreck Chords. Milo Aukerman, Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez, and Stephen Egerton continue to spit out hook-laden pop-punk with the energy and humor they have been known for since the early '80s. Like the Ramones before them, the Descendents' overall sound tends to be interchangeable, in the best possible way, with previous efforts. Why mess with a good thing? For instance, among these 14 tracks, "Nothing With You" can be compared to "Clean Sheets," while "Cool to Be You" and "Mass Nerder" are anthems à la "I'm Not a Loser" and "I Don't Want to Grow Up." One slight variation is the first overtly political tune the band has ever attempted, which finds them addressing (dare it be said) more adult-oriented themes! Written by Alvarez, "'Merican" opts out of a CNN/Rage Against the Machine dictatorial harangue about specifics and instead chooses to sum up the current world situation, and the U.S.A.'s involvement in it, by celebrating the positive (Otis Redding, Duke Ellington, Walt Whitman) and damning the negative (slavery, Joe McCarthy, Ku Klux Klan). The approach is personal, righteous, and even patriotic, but not preachy. Still, Cool to Be You as a whole is soaking in the Descendents' realism and positivism -- their most enduring traits -- and as the lyrics on "Dry Spell" bluntly state, "Life's just a series of lows and highs." And by the way, they did include a song that happily combines their love of both spicy food and lavatory humor: "Blast Off."

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