Pissed Jeans

Half Divorced

Sixth album from the Pennsylvania quartet hinges on a raucous series of absrupt left-turns, finds Jon Buckland

Pissed Jeans have always elevated their Jesus Lizard leanings and Flipper-worship into a self-deprecating yet oddly assured vein of rock and lurch. This, their sixth album, does little to buck that trend. However, where recent releases have found them peddling sludgey doom trudges (with the occasional dabble in breakneck pyrotechnics), Half Divorced is packed full of pep. They’ve stomped on the gas and it burns along like a raging forest fire.

‘Seatbelt Alarm Silencer’, for example, is a ramshackle speed race in constant danger of tripping over itself whilst the Philadelphians skate their closest yet to NOFX-style belters on both ‘Cling To A Poisoned Dream’ and the Pink Lincolns cover, ‘Monsters’. Similarly, opener ‘Killing All The Wrong People’ sets the tone in both bludgeoning buzzsaw energy and as a conduit for their upturned world view.

Which is another thing that Pissed Jeans do so well: tilt perceived wisdom on its head. Previously displayed in ‘Dream Smotherer’s willingness to work a 9-5 job in exchange for sleep, or the lack of interest in adhering to supposedly desirable societal norms during ‘False Jesii Part 2’, on Half Divorced we have ‘Antio-Sapio’ bringing us a fresh definition of Dumb Fucks with its brutish push back against Sapiosexuality. Then there’s the hapless sap chipping away at mounting debt as palm-muted riffs thrash into life around the walloping punk and droll central financial refrain of ‘Sixty-Two Thousand Dollars In Debt’.

This brings us to the high point of the album. Track seven is a classic Pissed Jeans left-turn. Hilarious and discordant in all the best ways, it’s a caustically-soundtracked, chaotic story of gas explosions, torture, societal decay, and the second coming of Christ, until a grand Shyamalan twist reveals that it’s really about little more than ‘Junktime’. It’s precisely the sort of askew approach upon which they thrive.

I may be stating the haemorrhagingly obvious by saying that a band named Pissed Jeans haven’t always been on an entirely serious keel (these are the folks responsible for tracks such as ‘R-Rated Movie’, ‘I Broke My Own Heart’, and the riotous toxic masculinity takedown of ‘I’m A Man’, after all) but even on the single chord maul of ‘Boring Girls’ there’s an air of rocking the boat, of challenging accepted conventions. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the same can be said for ‘Everywhere Is Bad’ which is silliness punkified. Put simply, it’s a call-and-response list of locations that could easily have been lifted from Weird Al’s playbook.

Fortunately, the album closes on yet another volte-face. The propulsive hammering of ‘Moving On’ might be made of ingredients that could turn stomachs: Oi punk gang vocals, picking guitar sweeps not heard since the Midwest emo drive ran out of steam halfway through the 00s, and, heaven forbid, a catchy refrain. But, goddamn it, it’s fun and it’s going to get stuck in your head and they’re almost certainly going to be closing some of their upcoming shows with it (quite possibly with vocalist Matt Korvette pounding the drums with both guitar and bass clattering around his neck.) Their previous record Why Love Now ended on ‘Not Even Married’ and now the Half Idiots are Half Divorced and moving on but they’re slapping grins on even the snarkiest sneered lips in the process.

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