Side projects can be a strange thing to digest. You expect the music to sound a certain way, or have a certain influence. In some cases, side projects can be totally opposite of their origin (Viva Death of Face to Face comes to mind). Some side projects, you get exactly what you think you would (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes). All was a band that was started in the absence of the Descendents lead singer and fan favorite, Milo Aukerman. As stated in the documentary on both bands, Filmage, All will always be the band that isn't the Descendents. While this isn't entirely true, as many All songs hold up on their own, but All has always been the 2nd act to the more popular Descendents.When The Descendents came back in the mid 90's and introduced their brand of melodic pop punk to the masses, the rumor is that the new All album wouldn't be on Epitaph without the Everything Sucks record. Both albums have the same layout artwork wise, the same crisp production quality, and as Epitaph owner Brett Gurewitz has said, the same marketing and promotion went into both albums. Without checking numbers, I am willing to bet The Descendents old sold All's Epitaph records debut, Mass Nerder. (Edit: Everything Sucks charted on Billboard at 132).
While I prefer the Milo led outfit, Mass Nerder is what I feel is the best album of their catalog. While All had a few albums with different singers (Dave Smally and Scott Reynolds), Chad Price really fits the band the best, with absolutely zero disrespect to their former vocalists. As the album opens with "Worlds on Heroin", all the Blasting Room sonics are present. Crisp drums, in your face guitars, with Chad Price letting his own voice shine. "I'll Get There" is a poppy number that could have been swapped out for "I'm the One" on Everything Sucks, and I do not think anyone would complain. "Life on the Road" flies in and out in 36 seconds, before jumping into Fairweather Friend. Upon listening to "Think the World" and thinking it sounds familiar, it does. The melody would be found on the song "Merican" on the next Descendents album "Cool to Be You". Whether that is intentional or not, no one will really know. The album is filled with pop punk hooks, while having that familiar Descendents style. Look no further than "Until I Say So", a song fully written by Chad Price. This is one of the finest moments on the record, and encapsulates everything All, and to a point, The Descendents are. Refrain is also a fully penned Price song which his emotion shines, and the strain in his voice is one of my favorite moments in the song. Sadly, while this is a good album, this album is more forgettable than Everything Sucks, and why that is is going to be left up to the listener. Would this album stuck more if Milo sang on it? Would Everything Sucks have been as melodic if Chad sang all the songs (the demos are on the internet)?
It is difficult to write a retrospective review on an album that followed up a stone cold classic by their brother band. That being said, if one has never given All a chance, or are a steadfast Descendents only band, Mass Nerder would be the album that would change the opinion. It is the most straight forward of the All records. Maybe there are not as many memorable tracks, but that doesn't mean the album is a dud by any means, again, it is just hard to stand out when there is such a Milo following.