Stephen Egerton | The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton (Paper + Plastick)

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Like much of Egerton’s discography, this album is consistently solid, with nearly every song being at least “good” and the peaks easily qualifying as “great.” 

 

 With both of his main gigs in the middle of lengthy, if not permanent, recording hiatuses (the Descendents last bowed with 2004’s Cool to Be You, while All has been silent since 2000’s Mass Nerder, though both bands still occasionally play live), punk rock guitar god Stephen Egerton’s solo debut is long overdue. Between producing and recording other bands at his Tulsa, Okla. studio, Egerton wrote and recorded an entire album’s worth of songs by himself before approaching some of his many friends throughout the pop-punk pantheon to write lyrics and record vocals over the instrumental tracks.

 
As you might suspect, the result, The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton, is a collection of the same type of catchy, upbeat, guitar-driven pop-punk numbers that he has been churning out since joining the Descendents in 1986. Egerton’s guitar has a unique enough “voice” that the album manages to maintain a fairly consistent feel despite the constantly changing vocalists.
 
It’s probably unsurprising that Egerton sounds right at home playing with his former bandmates. Chad Price (of both All and the more countrified Drag the River) offers up the catchiest song of the album’s front half with “Funny Face”; its galloping guitar riff and bittersweet romantic lyrics (“You made me laugh until I forgot how to cry”) could have easily fit on Cool to Be You. Scott Reynolds, Price’s All predecessor, mostly stays out of the way on “Sunny Disposition,” letting Egerton’s constantly shifting guitars take center stage. Dr. Milo Aukerman took a break from the world of biochemistry to reunite with his former Descendents cohort on “She’s Got Everything,” a song Egerton penned for his wife as a Christmas present. And yes, the song is just as saccharine and silly as you might expect, but it’s glorious hearing Aukerman (possessor of one of the finest set of pipes in punk rock) behind the microphone, and Egerton celebrates with one of the album’s nimblest guitar solos.
 
Both Egerton and Chris DeMakes (Less Than Jake) bring their A-game on the album’s undisputed highpoint, “Print on Paper,” a punchy rocker with inventive guitar work, a massive hook, and a fantastic set of lyrics by LTJ drummer Vinnie Fiorello (my personal favorite line being “It’s a cut-and-paste life with connect-the-dot lives, beating to a 4/4 time”). Egerton perfectly replicates the sound of Ultimate Fakebook on “Never Again” (sung by that band’s Bill McShane), Tim McIlrath of Rise Against turns “South for the Winter” into what sounds like it was unearthed from the Offspring’s vaults, and Mike Herrera of MXPX brings some great thoughts on arrested development to the chugging riff on “Cut Me Down to Size.”
 
Occasionally, Egerton stretches outside of his usual comfort zone. He brings some country swing to “Fire’s On” to match the twang of Drag the River’s Jon Snodgrass. He offers a thrashing riff to In Stereo’s Jesse Cole, who morphs the song into a Panic! At the Disco-style cabaret-punk number. But things don’t get truly weird until the final song “Willie Wicked,” where Egerton conspires with Abe Brennan of My Name and Wretch Like Me to create a metal tune that seems to have teleported in from a System of a Down record. None of these tunes rises too far above “decent,” but their presence helps keep the proceedings from getting too samey.
 
Like much of Egerton’s discography, The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton is consistently solid, with nearly every song being at least “good” and the peaks easily qualifying as “great.” The only real clunker, “Abundance of Fluff,” is brought down by by-the-numbers lyrics and the voice of John Moreland (of John Moreland and the Black Gold Band), whose whiskey-soaked gruffness sounds like a put-on. The record won’t completely sate one’s appetite for a new Descendents record, but if you’re looking for a solid, slick pop-punk album, this one delivers. B+ | Jason Green

Official website: http://www.stephenegerton.com/

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