Pissed Jeans

King Of Jeans

The land lying as it does in 2009, and the idea of the ‘advance copy’ largely rendered archaic by illegal downloads (thereby removing the one chance music journalists had to impress normally functioning people), the third Pissed Jeans album has already generated a solid chunk of chatter before it’s been released. There seems to be a pervading school of thought that King Of Jeans represents a tangible step up for the Pennsylvania four-piece: the teenage snot and hardcore slop left over from their musical upbringing sluiced away to make way for a more conventionally powerful rock’n’roll force. If not equivalent to the transition between Bleach and Nevermind, then at least Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love. (They’re on Sub Pop, so we’re talking about grunge bands! Ain’t nowhere cosier than a pigeonhole!)

Thing is, I don’t really buy it. I’ve listened to Hope For Men, the second Jeans album, more times than anything else in the past 24 months, and their pre-Sub Pop debut Shallow plenty ’nuff times also. As such, I meet the consensus halfway by on one hand noting that the anthemic qualities of those two albums were underrated, and their hooks were in abundance; on the other, that King Of Jeans still fukk’n SMOKES at an exalted level of smokingness. They’re not the noisiest noise-rock band out there, but they have to be one of the rockingest.

That it opens with a song called ‘False Jesii, Part 2’ – the title constitutes a joke of sorts that only people who collect violently obscure American hardcore records will get – might imply that frontman Matt Korvette is pointedly keeping his hat in the ring with other late 20s/early 30s people who obsess over the wrong things and spend money in ways that frustrate those close to them and ultimately fall short of their potential while the meaty moderates of the world climb the greasy ladder by donning hair gel and reading The Game and going to see Foo Fighters with half the department instead of a noise show in the basement of a café, on their own.

That’s quite a lot of projecting, I suppose. Nevertheless, it is kind of the subject of the song, which pummels and hooks in equal measure and will probably come to be one of Pissed Jeans’ best-known songs: "I could put on a tight black shirt, but I don’t bother / I could hit the gym so it looks real nice, but I don’t bother." ‘Dream Smotherer’ has probably the most energetic drum performance of any Jeans song to date, and a pigsqueal guitar solo curiously similar to ‘My Bed’, Hope For Men‘s epic closer. ‘Request For Masseuse’ – it’s about what it sounds like, and is so clinically successful in extinguishing all sexual connotations of the backrub, lyrically speaking, that it might as well be a Carcass song – runs on a railroad of blues-rock that could fool dads everywhere into thinking this might be up their street.

‘Spent’ is by some stretch the longest song on King Of Jeans, and is a de facto centerpiece for the record of a type the previous two never had (not that an album needs one). It recalls Blue Cheer in its sustained notes, the drained hopelessness of Black Flag’s ‘Nothing Left Inside’ and Saint Vitus’ ability to portray gloom as drama, drama as gloom. His concerns are all the worse for being crushingly mundane, of course: "I drank a cold glass of water, but it didn’t satisfy … my sleeping clothes make it through the day … spent like ten bucks on my lunch" – "like" being the killer word in that line. (Another note: the phrase ‘new noise’, in the pantheon of punk rock, has hitherto referred to Refused’s would-be futurist efforts to expand the horizons of the genre. In ‘Spent’, it’s what Korvette hears when he gets his car back from the garage.)

Pissed Jeans continue here to take a masterclass in sweating the small stuff. If you are steadfast in your opinion that rock’n’roll should advocate wilful abandonment and aspirational hedonism, and have no truck with irony and self-awareness, this band’s image may puzzle and irritate you – likewise if you hold the belief that punk rock should be politically charged, and recall the pre-Jeans hardcore band The Gatecrashers, who fitted this remit. Really, though, the celebration of minutiae through song is a rich tradition spanning more or less every genre, and there may be no other group on earth right now who tackle the drudgery as empathetically, or emphatically, as Pissed Jeans.

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