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Like many punks rockers my age, the Descendents were one of, if not THE first punk rock band that I got into. Pioneering what would become the pop-punk genre, the Descendents and later ALL would pave the way with their signature sound. A large portion of this sound was created by the talent and creativity of guitarist Stephen Egerton. His unique style was something I spent way too many teenage evenings trying to break down. But that’s more than enough history – lets get to the album!
For those unfamiliar with the project, it was birthed by Egerton in the wake of both the Descendents and ALL being on an extended hiatus. Egerton continued writing songs while forming Armstrong Recording Studio. Along with producing other bands, he also spent time recording his own songs. He would write and record all of the instrumental parts himself before turning to various friends to cover his self-proclaimed “weak suit” – singing. The result is a laundry list of talent including Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Jon Snodgrass (Drag the River), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio), Chris Demakes (Less Than Jake), and Joey Cape (Lagwagon), along with former ALL bandmates Chad Price and Scott Reynolds, as well as Descendents front man Milo Aukerman… just to name a few. The complete list of contributors can be found here.
My biggest fear about this album was that it would fail to be just that – an album. Something significant that could be listened to from front-to-back as a complete piece of work. With the aforementioned who’s who it would have been pretty easy for this to have just been a random, namedropping showcase of unconnected songs. Thankfully these fears went out the window about three tracks in. Not only was it not a rag tag mix of songs… it was a flowing showcase of talent and collaboration
While some songs sound like the next chapter in the ALL/Descendents library (notably the ones featuring Aukerman, Reynolds, and Price), other tracks, such as Snodgrass’ “Fire’s On” and Andriano’s “Our Last Song”, take on a very unique feel flavored by the voices and styles of each singer. Yet to my surprise and delight, this never feels like just a compilation of songs. All 16 tracks make up a very unique and cohesive rock album that is enjoyable from beginning to end.
While it is not a new ALL or Descendents album – and in this case that’s not a bad thing – this album shines on its own as one of the greatest pop-punk/rock albums in recent memory. Fun, catchy and never ceasing to be unique, I have a strong feeling this is going to be on many “best of” lists come the end of the year.