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Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans

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Artist: Pissed Jeans

Album: King of Jeans

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Aug. 6, 2009

Hail King of Jeans, in which our bears of very little brain walk in the only direction they could. Allentown punks Pissed Jeans have tightened up and started to sound like a metal band. I’m strictly talking the sound here: trends towards speed and sludge are always feeding back between metal and punk, and King of Jeans lopes like a lot a of the doom metal crawling around the underground the last few years. There’s none of the echo-chamber meanderings that weirded up their first two records. But their spirit (dispirit, really) remains constant. If metal evokes power, and punk evokes weakness, this record is a dive down a well of powerlessness, sinking deeper than they’ve gone before. It goes down swinging blades.

They’re still ridiculous, though. Faced with a receding hairline, the metal dude brushes in a different direction, and sings another song about awakening the ancients, male-pattern-badass style. But for Matt Korvette, it’s a humiliation too obvious to be ignored. The rest of the Jeans come up with a circling-the-drain riff, right for Cthulhu to rise from his vortex. Korvette’s narration makes the riff literal: more hair, down the drain. Their debut found a form-to-function match in "Boring Girls," where one chord manifested an obsession with girls outside his class and attention span. They may not stumble across such a keen conceptual joke again, but "Goodbye (Hair)" comes close.

I couldn’t really get behind Hope for Men, their full-length for Sub Pop from 2007. Now that it’s sandwiched between King and their debut Shallow, I see why. Scorn doesn’t suit this band. The cul-de-sac mom of "Scrapbooking" and the Whole Foods patron of "The Jogger," while dissected efficiently, weren’t worth the lashing. They were too far afield. Hell, it’s patrons of Whole Foods who give members of the tribe a decent enough job to keep licking leather. The domain where Korvette’s loathing is effective starts at his skin and ends with anyone willing to touch it. So while on paper, a girl with a lip ring should be a much less interesting mark for a Pissed Jeans song, in realization, the confused attraction of "Lip Ring" hits harder. "You’re not like me!" he insists. Nope, she’s not. She’s female, and she’s paying attention. Terrifying.

The peak is a pair of rhythmic wastelands that lurch like early Swans. "Request for Masseuse" is nothing but a description of a back rub over a dirge. The specifics are ordinary, but delivered so up-close, it becomes revolting, the way contemplating a chef’s hands all over your food would make you send it back. The shame and lethargy declared throughout "Spent" are Gira territory for sure, but with a different sense of place. No downtown no-waver is going to talk about wearing those sweats day and night. This is the guy you see through the picture window of a one-story house in Allentown, the only house on the street that’s lit. When he gets his car back from the garage, it makes a new noise.

Maybe this band has painted themselves into a corner, but that was the point all along, wasn’t it? It works precisely because Korvette is the kind of guy who’s grossed out by the thought of getting wet paint on the soles of his feet.

By Ben Donnelly

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