Pissed Jeans Hope for Men

[Sub Pop; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: throwback sludgy hardcore
Others: Homostupids, Clockcleaner, New Flesh, Gatecrashers

Pissed Jeans slam-danced their way into the spotlight with 2005’s canonical hardcore masterwork Shallow. As many band members counted themselves veterans of the hyper-fast, classic hardcore revivalists The Gatecrashers, this was an easy feat. They simply added bits of artful consideration to the loud-fast framework. The album indeed turned the clock back to early-’80s hardcore while adding some AmRep-style ’90s feedback pyrotechnics. Bradley Fry’s guitar worked its way from mean power chord crunches to sludgy Sabbath chunks to feedback freak-outs, often in the course of one song. Tim Wynarczuk slapped his skins with the viciousness Alec Baldwin on a court-ordered visitation with his daughter. Dave Rosenstraus often provided riffs so Fry could explore feedback accentuations. Hopping around and holding it down, Matt Korvette shouted bleeding-esophagus epithets in a wavering voice resembling psychotic forefathers but distinguishably its own. The band was a refreshing voice to those who believed Warped Tours and Hot Topic ensured hardcore’s death.

Cut to 2007. One classic Sub Pop single later, the band still manages to crank out material that remains on par with or surpasses the quality of the songs on Shallow. The band now contains each member of The Gatecrashers with a new acquisition, drummer Sean McGuinness. Unlike The Gatecrashers, the Jeans trek beyond black-and-white ’80s hardcore into art-damaged Birthday Party-isms. Pissed Jeans’ genius, and I use the word knowing full-well its implications, comes from their ability to discern nihilism in everyday situations. Pissed Jeans create music for losers and loners but stray from the drug-addled paths of their predecessors. Whereas Drunks With Guns and Flipper often dealt with chemical-induced nihilism in their lyrics, Pissed Jeans rally against bad weather and sing about overeating to deal with emotions. Many of the band’s hardcore forefathers succumbed to the decadent lifestyle they sang about, but Pissed Jeans work white-collar jobs, thus adding a strange Clark-Kent-of-beercore vibe to their music.

On Hope for Men, the band blasts through 10 songs in 41 minutes. The tunes are dense and fully realized, each well thought-out lyrically and instrumentally. The songs also burst out in 10 different directions. “Secret Admirer,” “Fantasy World,” “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream),” and “Bad Wind” are classic Pissed Jeans, with Fry slinging Jesus Lizard riffs with Sabbath-esque breakdowns and Korvette singing like David Yow under the influence of Void. Each analyzes some menial aspect of life, a loner lifestyle, or both. “The Jogger” and “Scrapbooking” explore the horrific implications derived from the close examination of surface slices of suburban life. Both tunes veer far left into avant-punk territory at frighteningly slow pace, with feedback tidbits peaking through the empty space. Both songs resemble Fear’s great “Getting the Brush,” but with a nutjob urgency replacing spooky slacker vocals. “I’m Turning Now” and “Caught Licking Leather” trudge through introvert-sentiments with rave-up intensity.

Pissed Jeans continually stray from formulaic old-school hardcore, varying their instrumental attack and even adding gooseharp (!?) to “Scrapbooking.” Guitar riffs are often forsaken for rhythmic feedback eruptions. The band leaves huge sound gaps in the slower songs, adding to the thick-aired desperation. A whipping-post noise reminiscent of fellow Allentown peers Air Conditioning’s effect-treated industrial bass lines appears on opener “People Person.” The band sometimes alludes to ’80s sludge, mimicking inventive riff constructors like Stickmen with Rayguns instead of The Misfits.

The punk rock manual dictates that Pissed Jeans are supposed to release one album and a few singles, then disappear into speedball-induced food for the worms. Then again, Pissed Jeans were never an average hardcore group. Hope for Men proves that the band is at its best when defying hardcore sensibilities and adding to the lexicon, not just stealing from it.

1. People Person
2. Secret Admirer
3. A Bad Wind
4. Scrapbooking
5. I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)
6. Fantasy World
7. I’m Turning Now
8. Caught Licking Leather
9. The Jogger
10. My Bed

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