In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This time around, we’re picking our favorite songs about giving thanks.

Descendents, “Thank You” (1996)

It’s rare to see a band that cut its teeth in the California hardcore scene going out of its way to show appreciation for anyone or anything in its songs. While it’s not completely out of character for the Descendents to pay tribute—the group routinely professed its love of food and caffeine—it still had enough pent up angst to make the notion that bespectacled vocalist Milo Aukerman would express his gratitude far-fetched. Yet, a nine year gap between albums gave the Descendents time to look at themselves and the band’s history, and when the guys returned in 1996 with Everything Sucks, they were just as frustrated, but had found a reason to take a moment to show their appreciation, too.

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There’s an ambiguity to “Thank You” that makes it such an apt closer for the band’s reunion album, even if it’s at odds with the record’s title. The 14 preceding songs fall in line with the ethos the Descendents established in 1987 with the “All-O-Gistics,” but it’s the fact that Aukerman never says who exactly he’s singing about that makes the song universal. It’s obvious he’s singing about a band, but even as he makes reference to cassette tapes and rock ’n’ roll shows, that he omits the band’s name makes it feel like an appreciative Mad Libs all Descendents fans can fill in. When Aukerman sings, “Thank you for playing the way you play,” it’s just as easy to think of my family, my friends, and even the Descendents themselves, for all the support and influence. I may be more inclined to utter “Everything sucks” instead of “Thank you” on a daily basis, but it’s the duality that makes the latter feel earned, and hopefully carry a bit more weight.

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