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Pissed Jeans - Honeys

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Artist: Pissed Jeans

Album: Honeys

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Feb. 11, 2013

Pissed Jeans lives and dies by the friction between their stories and their riffs. Nerves and anger shrink behind the gut-punch guitars, the noise reducing them to amusing banality. When you look at forbearers of ugliness like Tad and Killdozer, the louts in the lyrics were outsize characters. They were more cruel, rural and skilled with a double clutch than the kinds of guys who’d show up in a punk club. They were matched to the music, which spun its wheels in the mud. The louts who populate Matt Korvette’s monologues are sized exactly to the chalk outline that might be drawn around his body, should he ever turn up dead in a Golden Corral parking lot. Their lives are smaller than they want, smaller than the lumbering bass that pushes their complaints forward. They’re gonna die someday, but for now they’re in the buffet line, thinking about health insurance.

“Health Plan” — one of the tracks on Honeys that wallows in the mundane — features a dude bragging about avoiding doctors. Other targets include families that put those stick-figure stickers on minivan rear windshields and girlfriends who lock themselves in rooms to cry. This isn’t new territory for Pissed Jeans, but no one else does the perspective of first-person-asshole so well. The guys in these songs know they’re no catch. For all their flaws and limply clenched fists, they are reliable narrators.

What changes have come since the last full length, King of Jeans? Tempos have picked up. “Cathouse,” as far as chords go, is a pop-punk tear, and “Loubs” is hefty glam-rock shuffling. As with the interim single “Sam Kinison Woman,” the Jeans have learned how to do some toe-tapping. This is cool. Constitutionally incapable of perkiness, their attempts to place some perk amid the leaking feedback makes the sludge stranger. There is a solid melody but no glee in “Cathouse.” Like Poison Idea before them, even when nailing the big rock gesture, they still sound defeated.

Of course, this is a band that’s met more success than the Poison Ideas of the underworld ever saw. They’ve eked out a small spotlight that’s sustainable for at least the near future. Korvette gets to write about fashion for Spin, and knowing that there will probably be a fifth Pissed Jeans album moves him ever further from the insurance adjusting backstory.

Honeys, like Hope for Men, has some dead spots in the middle, but this time it doesn’t lessen the impact of the whole record, or the underlying fear of sinking back into office park anonymity. They’re edging toward all-time status, because like Black Sabbath or Big Black, they aren’t just constantly negative, they’re cohesively negative. When they choose an easy target, like working for a chain store, the rock subsumes the rant. When it all comes together, like on “Romanticize Me,” the self-awareness cuts even more than the chainsaw lead. Every Pissed Jeans song is about pain, but there’s never any heartbreak. Heartbreak is for winners.

By Ben Donnelly

Other Reviews of Pissed Jeans


Hope for Men

King of Jeans

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