It’s a Hard Rock Life
The Allentown, Pa. quartet Pissed Jeans don’t just project a wall of sound; that would be too simple, too much of a cliché. Instead, their latest LP King of Jeans finds the band continuing to build the musical equivalent of a barbed-wire prison fence—fascinating construction, more than occasionally off-putting content, a thing both spacious and impenetrable.
Your author had the good fortune of listening to this second Sub Pop album (third overall) from Pissed Jeans in close proximity to one of that label’s foundation releases: Nirvana’s first album Bleach, in deluxe-reissue form. Their moments in the spotlight at least 15 years apart, both bands still manage to share a few heavy-punk roots in Mudhoney and The Jesus Lizard. Pissed Jeans, however, believe the heavier and dirtier the root, the better.
Don’t come to King of Jeans looking just for Cobainesque pop leanings. They certainly exist—even 2007’s Hope for Men had “I Got You (Ice Cream)”—but they’re blown up in entertaining fashion by Matt Korvette’s signature yell/chant/growl, a manic and depressed blend of Henry Rollins and The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. Korvette marks his territory early on opening track “False Jesii Part 2,” his laissez-faire self listing so much he could do “but I don’t bother,” while “Request for Masseuse” runs down what he needs rubbed down.
Don’t even expect as much weirdly anarchic melody as you might hear from Pissed Jeans’ kindred spirits and touring buddies Fucked Up. There’s no flute-intro artistry here, just a bunch of flailing, barely-hanging-on Brad Frye guitar sludge. Propelled by the Randy Huff-Sean McGuinness rhythm section, Frye turns “Half Idiot” into a minor-key number that invokes The Hives in style as well as title and supplements Korvette’s undercurrent of domestic abuse in the morbid “Dream Smotherer.”
King of Jeans isn’t perfect or original. “Spent,” for example, plays the same part “My Bed” did on Hope for Men: the seven-minute grunge epic, two times Unsane at half the price. “Goodbye (Hair)” also betrays when Pissed Jeans delve a bit too directly and too literally into life’s mundanity, trading dread for unintentional humor. Still, these guys offer so much to love about hard music in the process of addressing what they hate about life.