Pissed Jeans rage against the everyday on cynical and caustic punk return.
Pissed Jeans have made a career of subverting the workaday norms of modern life. Their lyrical focus has always been on the small grievances and annoyances that make up our daily lives. By lambasting the habitual exasperation and indignation of everyday life, they have always been a very relatable band. Never focused on a revolutionary ideal or spouting insurrectionist slogans as part of a society altering manifesto, their concerns have always seemed more domestic, more common. Happily, this remains the case on this, the band’s fifth album, which is replete with the all the irreverent wit and bruising, dense riffs you would expect from the band.
The opener, “Waiting on My Horrible Warning”, begins, unnervingly enough, with the sound of screaming, amidst tumultuous, rumbling bass. Frontman Matt Korvette comes across as a slightly more unhinged Nick Cave as he grumbles and growls through his meditations on the passage of time, from the joys of youth (“I was a boy, spending nights kickin' life's big behind"), through to middle age and the inevitability of death. If all this sounds a little too heavy and earnest for the band, it isn’t. It contains all the flippant, sarcastic humor you would expect with lines like, “Just waiting for a lump that gets bigger every day” and “I used to play punk, but now I’m just singing the blues”. That line might suggest the band has changed their sound a little, maybe reigned in the noise. Nothing could be further from the truth.“The Bar Is Low” ruptures with a bright, post-punk riff before launching, full throttle, into a catchy, punk chorus. Korvette focuses his ire on the indiscretions and stupidity of men in the public eye who seem to be the focus of daily, tabloid scandals.
Gender division, misogyny, and modern masculinity are a common theme in Korvette’s lyrics. On Standout, “It’s Your Knees”, he condemns the culture of men who feel the need to rate the looks of women consistently. While, slap, bang in the middle comes the genuinely startling and disconcerting “I’m a Man”. It’s a bizarre, spoken word piece from author Lindsay Hunter that, again, exposes the crude, sex-obsessed character of contemporary manliness. More surprisingly, she eroticizes the mundane small talk of office life with ridiculous carnal uses of office stationery. It is truly inspired. In parts hilarious, disturbing and quite sad it manages to remain effective even after multiple listens.
Elsewhere, the album features further examples of Korvette’s offbeat, cynical take on life. Built on a sludgy, grinding, grunge riff, “Ignorecam”, finds Korvette warping the idea of fetish cams dissecting the idea of niche shows that feature women doing menial activities and totally ignoring the viewer. Additionally, one theme that has carried over from their last album, Honeyz, is Korvette’s disdain for the world of work. Firstly, he takes aim at jobs with ridiculous job titles on “Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst” before standing up for those doing menial, underappreciated jobs with little hope of gaining respect on “Have You Ever Been Furniture?”.
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Musically, the music is as volatile and fierce as ever. The band still sound like the best parts of punk and post-hardcore with more than a hint of Soundgarden, Mudhoney and the Jesus Lizard in a number of the sludgier, threatening songs. Similarly, “Activia” contains a down-tuned, doomy riff full of droning, creeping menace. The production work really allows their pure heaviness to shine through but not at the expense of the songs themselves. The guitars on the album are as thick and chunky as their best work with the drum and bass work sounding simply colossal. Nonetheless, there are plenty of examples of the band flexing their musical muscles. “Love Without Emotion” finds the band creating atmosphere with occasional notes rather than grinding riffs while “Not Even Married” features a more polished, Josh Homme style guitar line.
As a whole, this is a typically unpredictable and manic album. Musically, it couldn’t be accused of being subtle, but it does show a band pushing themselves to see where they can take their sound. Nevertheless, its success relies on the harsh, wild man howl and caustic wit of Korvette. He is in inspired form throughout with lines begging to be unpacked over time. He is prepared to scrutinize modern life, encouraging us to do the same and ask the questions that need to be asked.