ALL - Problematic (Cover Artwork)


Problematic (2001)

Epitaph records

It’s hard living in the shadow of Everything Sucks. The album was a career revival record for the Descendents and a punk rock classic. It seems its legacy grows with each passing year as new music fans stumble onto the band through the influence they command. The fact the Descendents are routinely touring some of the biggest clubs in cities and headlining festivals consistently for the past few years indicates as much. However, that’s where the final duo of ALL albums reside, in the shadow of Everything Sucks. And it’s not fair to ALL, particularly for their final effort to date Problematic which was released to many questions of when the next Descendents’ album was coming.

The best way to look at Everything Sucks, Mass Nerder, and Problematic is parts of the same thread. It signaled the final musical evolution for Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez, and Stephen Egerton as the anchoring force behind any Descendents/ALL efforts moving forward. They settled their ever growing adult-centric, yet still immature pop-punk across this trio of releases. Backing vocals were often shared by Chad Price and Milo Aukerman and demos were recorded with alternate singers. Due to timing and the trajectory of Aukerman’s reemergence with the Descendents, Problematic remains the most overshadowed.

And that’s problematic for fans of these bands! Problematic is as much on par with the aforementioned albums and deserves its own recognition. The album is packed with tight pop-punk songs reconciling getting older while staying young at heart, lost loves, and the occasional dive into armchair sociology. Immediately out the gate, a Stevenson drum fill opens up Problematic launching into “Carry You,” a love song to friend who made a lasting impression. It’s a perfect pop-punk song to match a no frills pop-punk album.

Each of the 18 songs clock in around two minutes. ALL leave no room for error as the bass lines move in and out of Egerton’s angular three chord riffage speeding from one track to the next. Songs like “www.sara,” “Theresa,” and “Stupid Kind of Love” are as equally accessible and catchy as an “I’m The One” or “When I Get Old.” The band also revisits their roots in the hardcore scene with shorter bangers like “Roir” and “Nothing To Live For.” Because the quality of Problematic is so consistent throughout, it’s hard to say one track stands out above the next. You can tell all the players are locked in and acting as a cohesive unit.

It’s not likely there is going to be some great pent up demand at this point for revisiting Problematic or a headlining option for ALL at a punk rock music festival selling nostalgia, but this album should be in the collection of any pop-punk fan right beside Everything Sucks and Mass Nerder. These albums are a complete listen and show a band of friends recognizing how unique this situation was and fully capitalizing on it.