The differences between The Descendents and ninety-five percent of pop punk? I sat and listened and listened and listened to this CD and it kept on getting better instead of stale. Little things hit me. As I’m wont to do with a CD that I really like, I talk to people about it. Here’s what’s come up in discussion. 1.) When they sing about love, it’s not boyfriend/ girlfriend. It’s wife, ex-wife. The stakes are higher and more grave, the emotions less polar. 2.) The guitar, as with Jughead of Screeching Weasel, up in the front, it sounds like frosting, fuzzy bunnies, and sunshine but underneath, it’s all sharpened blades sticking in deep, churning nuts and bolts. 3.) The Descendents are still consummate musical outsiders. Through the relative isolation of living in Colorado while Milo went off and got his Ph.D., they weren’t concerned with keeping up with all of the little punk rock ghettos that have formed. They lived life and were human beings with punk rock rooted inside. Then they decided to make an album. They don’t need the money. They needed the fuel that only creation can bring. I admire that. 4.) True pioneers don’t just have one trick up their sleeves. The best of the breed are the ultimate survivors. They overcame one of the largest obstacles: remaining relevant past their mid-to-late thirties in a genre of music that treats bands like Logan’s Run. 5.) Any band that lyrically includes Otis Redding, the Haymarket Riot, and the line “I’m gonna kick their asses in class/ Gonna get good grades!” will usually make it to my A list, anyhow. It’ll be impossible for this album to be kicked off my top ten for 2004.