Why Love Now
, February 16th, 2017 16:57
The world of Philadelphia’s premiere shit-stirrers Pissed Jeans is one of delirious sludge and wild-eyed drudge. They stand out from the rest of the pack for their incisive, insidious digs at male privilege, sexual frustration, self-immolating self-image and false pride, laughing maniacally as the house burns down around them. Their live shows up the ante and then some, presenting sparkplug explosions of propulsive power and leering humour, a flailing, sweating, gnashing and gurning entertainment powerhouse too smart to follow convention yet too dumb to deny it. It is great to see that a band that is so antagonistic, so anachronistic, so unabashedly self-reflexive and destructive are still powering through on their own fuel, and their fifth album, Why Love Now, carries on their twisted legacy.
The two released cuts from the album, ‘The Bar Is Low’ and ‘Ignorecam’, cuts closest to the Pissed Jeans cloth. The former features some thick hair-rock riffs and tribal loose-limb dumb drums as Matt Korvette and his frenzied cronies unleash fury on how all entitled fucks think they are the good guy, and that to be a “noble man” isn’t really all that hard, considering the competition; the latter gets back into Neanderthal japes and aping, Korvette howling and gnashing his teeth in a primitive porn-addicted persona who pays to be disregarded by the opposite sex, tailing away as he misspells ignore over and over. ‘Cold Whip Cream’ is even more straightforward, a thrashed-out hardcore mewl, while ‘Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst’ is a breakneck punk brawl, a ninety-second tenet against the office environment and those who espouse its virtues, forever a bugbear and source of vitriol, furthered by the ode for the used and abused that is ‘Have You Ever Been Furniture’.
And while their modern-day derisions, suburban expulsions and masculinity eviscerations are the same weapons of choice they have had since unleashing Shallow back in 2005, these incisive scalpels are still razor sharp, and there are enough impudent left-turns and tangents to show they can vary their shtick while keeping their vehement vitriol firmly to the fore.
The album kicks off with an uncharacteristic pulverising dirge, ‘Waiting On My Horrible Warning’. Blood-curdling screams and a Carpenter-esque synth-like throbbing sets up Korvette’s own bile-curdled howls and growls, ripped from the core of his soul to espouse that he “was a boy spending nights kicking life’s big behind/the only thing I had too much to spend was time”. Each drawn breath is labored, wracked with smoke and spleen, an inconvenience; yet the lyrics are drawled, vehement, filled with phlegm and chagrin. Of course it’s a pisstake – Korvette is still poking holes in misguided misogynistic masculinity as he groans about how he “used to play punk but now I’m singing the blues.” There is a moment, where everything slows down like the tape is being chewed, before all metallic chaos and the chorus from hell joins him to bemoan his inevitable demise.
‘Love Without Emotion’ is so straight along the PJ modus operandi that it seems out of place, augmented by the crystalline post-punk riff that ripples beneath its foundations – as close to a Top 40 troubler as they are ever likely to get (although the sneer remains obstinately in place). ‘(Won’t Tell You) My Sign’ sees Fry’s guitarwork inexorably spiral into a Uniform-esque industrial grind; Fry again heads in a different direction on ‘It’s Your Knees’, taking a Corgan-circa-Mellon Collie angst approach that devolves into a no Wave caterwaul that producer Lydia Lunch can devilishly abide by. ‘Activia’ grinds down to a desert-smoked metal crawl, exemplifying the way the music has bulked out even more since last record, 2013’s excellent Honeys.
Yet the best track here is a gender-politics satirical screed performed, not by Korvette, but by esteemed author and poet Lindsay Hunter. ‘I’m A Man’ is a hilariously grotesque inversion of overt misogyny, with a female taking control in the cubicle-strewn office wastelands. The constant stationery-and-sex innuendo, the bodily fluids, the animal kingdom inhibitions, is driven by high-hat rushes, tribal rumbles and whip cracks. It’s riotous, ridiculous, barrel-scraping smut, and the best manifestation of the Pissed Jeans manifesto yet.
Why Love Now may be their fourth album on Sub Pop, but there has been no cleaning up or pulling punches. Pissed Jeans are as soiled, sordid and scintillating as ever.