Pissed Jeans King Of Jeans(Sub Pop) Buy it from Insound
In 2008, Sub Pop celebrated twenty years.
As an entity so fraught with seminal talent, Sub Pop’s brand forever attached to records that have since changed the sound of screaming alienation that so typically defined American independent music up until the late 80s, it’s amazing the label itself didn’t wind up as exhausted and used up as its once thriving Seattle scene, its credibility appropriated and sucked hollow by mainstream radio and corporate entanglement. Expanding its reach past its home base, and evolving its sound past its 90s rock repute, Sub Pop is still a relevant indie presence, Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses and Iron & Wine evidence of the label’s will to survive.
But, with retro-grunge quartet Pissed Jeans, Sub Pop is in a position to reclaim the torch it so boldly held with Mudhoney, Nirvana and Soundgarden, their acquisition of the band testament to the vision Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman had way back when.
2007’s Hope For Men was, to me, a refreshing blast of credible, Sabbath-infused punk malice, riff-propelled like Greg Ginn’s less than sophisticated sonic assaults and prone to wallow in its own hazardous slush like a dusty pressing of Flipper’s Love Canal. The album also took its inspiration from the corporate grind, a welcome concept deviating from the paradigm wherein self-righteous adolescents rally against important stuff like politics and society. Pissed Jeans have never felt the need to acknowledge anything past the point of “I,” “me,” or “myself,” politics and society a needless distraction for a mentality that seeks out professional isolation (People Person), a love of the mundane (Fantasy World), and conservative non-pharmaceutical cure-alls (I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)).
Their new album, King Of Jeans, further explores day-to-day tedium with a powerful mash of alterna-sludge and machine-like consistency, a healthy serving of solipsism and insecurity added to aid in swallowing. No less abrasive than Hope For Men, King Of Jeans has more of a stride, the addition of bassist Randy Huth providing Pissed Jeans with an almost PiL-caliber groove that sharpens their output. The noise finds value here as something other than mere cacophony, guitarist Bradley Fry’s riffs disciplined and focused.
With opener False Jesii Part 2, the sonic shift into the more straightforward confines of traditional punk and/or rock rhythm seems like a compromise, or an attempt at accessibility. But, as King Of Jeans continues, the maddening rock rhumba of Half Idiot and wiry slam of Pleasure Race make a case for Huth’s presence and energize vocalist Matt Korvette’s snarling assault. “Progression” would be one word; “angst” would be the other.
As the “alternative” rock surge brought teenaged angst and the disillusionment of so-called “generation X” to the unsympathetic public eye, Pissed Jeans encapsulate the modified twenties angst: that stretch of time where many young adults sort of question what there is to look forward to and reluctantly join the rat race. Directionless, Korvette begs for life outside the office with Dream Smotherer, (“Yeah it's alright, I lose my days and keep my nights/Just let me go and stay away from my home”), but doesn’t do much living with the Iommi-clad and crawling Spent, (“And my sleeping clothes make it through the day/Sweatpants and a shirt in different shades of grey”), or the resigned and complacent R-Rated Movie (“I lost count of all the blown-up buildings/Much more exciting than the rest of my day”). The externalized internal conflict transitions into physical malady by the album’s end (Goodbye (Hair)).
But, even as Pissed Jeans fail to see much beyond their own bullshit, King Of Jeans burns with enough vitriol and frustration that the music escalates the album’s importance. And, at times, they do grant second-party attention. They awkwardly attempt sexiness with She Is Science Fiction and Lip Ring, sinisterly list rubdown instructions with Request For Masseuse and document pathetic male behavior with the ultra-aggro Human Upskirt. Lip Ring, in particular, burns like a really good Nirvana B-side, its sludgy bass line and dissonant guitar evoking the characteristics of a bygone era that may be getting its second wind within the next couple years.
Their collective, self-absorbed disposition seems almost pseudo-homage to the alternative rock of yore that they work to revive. Pissed Jeans exchange “wallowing” for “acknowledging,” a tougher stance on trials and tribulations producing adrenalized results. Korvette’s pathetic dirge on hair loss is no less meaningful or poignant than Kurt Cobain’s violin-stringed bummer about being dumb. It’s just a lot more literal.