To hear it told, the reason why yet another Descendents reunion happened might have been because Epitaph wasn't going to sign All on their own. Then again, it all depends on who one talks to. Regardless of rationale or the nagging suspicion that the mid-'90s breakthrough of Green Day and the Offspring was the only reason this album got recorded, one fact remains: take this out of its surrounding context and this was and is a prime Descendents album. All the humor and heart-on-sleeve showcasing one could hope for are here, and if the band is essentially just All with Aukerman back on vocals, said band had been playing the old Descendents classics for long enough to know their way around great pop-punk, straight up.
Aukerman's not the snot-nosed brat from Milo Goes to College anymore, of course, but as the logical continuation of his half-goofy/half-emotional persona from the mid-'80s he's more than fine. All it takes to demonstrate that is to hear the great, affecting "I'm the One," a perfect tug-the-heartstrings hooky roar, immediately followed by the half-minute long jokey romp "Coffee Mug." All the band members write one thing or another throughout, an admirable democracy that follows the everyone-does-something approach found on earlier albums, and the hits outweigh the misses -- anyone dismissing this as just like any other pop-punk around misses the point that these characters helped found it as much as anyone! That the Descendents aren't interested in simply rehashing the past comes up more than once. Consider "Caught," which uses certain allegations about President Clinton (at least the earlier ones) as a starting point on responsibility and truth, and the just wistful and wondering enough "When I Get Old" ("will I still hate the cops/and have no class?"). A welcome, wonderful return to action.