Mean Jeans have been around for the better part of a decade, writing and playing catchy, good time punk that extols the virtues of partying, drinking, and sex, with occasional forays into musings on aliens and cruising around town. Their new album, Jingles Collection, pretty much falls in line with their earlier work. The only difference is that it’s a collection of guitar-based advertising jingles for products, ranging from 15 to 90 seconds long. The fact that none of these companies paid or even asked Mean Jeans to write these jingles and that they won’t be used to sell the products is ancillary. Mean Jeans did it anyway.
The various jingles are all appropriately catchy, but the band is at its best when being either more truthful or far sillier about a product than an actual advertisement would be. “Coors Light”, the opener, hits that sweet spot right out of the gate. “You’re the light of my life / Coors Light”, goes the hook over a bright guitar riff that would be perfect for an actual beer commercial. But then the lyrics have lines like, “Sobriety / Is not for me” and “With darkness comes / Another lonely night / I drink as many as I can find.” A sad, single alcoholic is probably not the fun image Coors Light would like to present the public with.
The “Cheez-It” jingle that talks about how delicious Cheez-It Duoz are (“Two flavors one perfect snack!”) would theoretically pass muster if it wasn’t for the gluttonous opening line, “Ch-ch-ch-cheez-its / Got the crumbs in my bed.” Camel Lights would probably not enjoy the band’s 15-second spot that ends with, “If I don’t have a pack / My night is gonna be wack / I’m smoking, Camel Lights all night.” Taco Bell, on the other hand, might appreciate the Mean Jeans take. “Guess what I ate late last night? / If you guessed Taco Bell, you’re right / ‘Cause the late night drive-thru / Is like the easiest thing to do / If it’s late and you’re hungry as hell / Taco Bell!”
My personal favorite might be “Skoal”, a cowpunk-style ad for the chewing tobacco. The lines “I’m walking walking baby baby / Down the street / Only one kind of girl I’d like to meet / One who appreciates a delicious tobacco treat!” makes me laugh every single time. The crust-punk jingle for Kinko’s is amusing, too, just because the heavy guitar chords, messy guitar solo, and ominous gang vocals are so opposed to the clean-cut image of the ubiquitous 1990’s copy shop. The piano-based power ballad for Mountain Dew is lovely, but the refrain, “I need it / I need it / I need it all the time”, is presumably not the caffeine dependence-based image the beverage would like to promote.
A few of the bits do fall a little short. “Selsun Blue”, a slow rocker that lasts all of 35 seconds, doesn’t have anything to it. “Hot Pockets” is 13 seconds long and is banal enough to be used in a real ad, but “Hot Pockets / Hot Hot Pockets /Got got got got to eat ’em up” but doesn’t make any impact as a song or even a jingle. The mid-tempo “Best Western” comes off more like a genuine love letter to from the band to the hotel chain but isn’t particularly effective as a jingle.
On the other hand, a couple of other tracks that seem more like genuine product love than jingle are entertaining. The short, simple acoustic ballad “Dunkaroos” seems like a real nostalgic flashback to the cookie snack. Similarly, “Kraft Mac and Cheese”, maybe the most highly arranged song on the album (piano, multiple types of guitar), comes off as open and honest. “Sizzler” has a Weezer-esque combination of crunchy guitar and Beach Boys-style harmonies and the opening line, “Hey, Mom, what’s for dinner? / You know I wanna go to the Sizzler” is another one that sounds like a moment from real life.
Jingles Collection, containing 23 jingles in just over 20 minutes, is a quick but fun listen. It’s a given that these are essentially all novelty tracks, although a few have pretty decent staying power. “Coors Light”, for instance, got stuck in my head multiple times while I was working on this review. For the most part, though, these are breezy throwaway songs, albeit songs created with good humor and affection. It’s an interesting, fun project, though, and well worth a listen for people who appreciate loud guitars, catchy hooks, and foods of dubious nutritional value.