Hard to Be Hardcore?
Hardcore is a rough world to live in. With its simplicity and lack of melody, there is not much to differentiate one band from the next. The formula is simple: Hit hard, make noise, shout. It doesn’t matter much what you say, but generally it’s in protest of something. So what would potentially separate a good hardcore band from a bad one? It’s not necessarily musicianship, since some of the genre’s finest founders were not particularly metronomic with their timing or tuneful with their instruments. It’s the same thing with lyricism: good hardcore can be anything from intelligent and poetic to vulgar and mundane, yet still be awesome. So what is the je ne sais quoi that makes the better band?
Honeys is the new record by Pennsylvania hardcore act Pissed Jeans. The band is doing what they enjoy, with Sub Pop still very much on their side. In an interview, singer Matt Korvette admitted that if not for the label encouragement and the opportunities presented, the band may very well have fallen by the wayside. But they didn’t, and Honeys is yet another block of sludge-punk social commentary and self-awareness set to jackhammer distortion and migraine drumming.
The album grabs you with both fists within the first second of “Bathroom Laughter” and quickly shouts out what you’re going to hear for the next thirty-five minutes. Pissed Jeans vary their tempos, though, and are just as adept at breakneck speeds as they are at drudgery, which helps break up the monotony of atonal vocals and grinding guitars. “Cathouse” is a fantastic track, with a Misfits-style progression that almost brings out an enthusiasm you won’t find anywhere else. “I stay away from doctors” is the sage advice in “Health Plan” and is a good example of the simple themes that arise in Pissed Jeans’ lyrics. With this much force, the message need not be long.
So, are Pissed Jeans one of the good ones? They hold back nothing and drive the point home with a blistering sonic assault and no fear of the consequences. If that’s not hardcore, I don’t know what is.