Bri Blahg… Pissed Jeans “King Of Jeans.” The Art Of Falling Apart

8 09 2009

by Brian Phillips (@BrianBlahg)

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Pissed Jeans "King Of Jeans"

 I used to get this feeling listening to The Butthole Surfers. The thrill of hearing a band with a whole bunch of shady ideas trying like hell to kill them with a shovel and shove them in a burlap sack. If they managed to keep them somewhat contained, they’d have a song like “Who Was In My Room Last Night.” Sometimes though the sack would bounce off the back of the pick up truck, burst open on the berm, and you’d have “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave” or the entire “Hairway To Steven” album.

Where the Surfers would laugh as they attempted to shove a wet dirty finger in your ear, their contemporaries The Jesus Lizard (and before that front man David Yow along with David Wm. Sims were in the great Scratch Acid) put a mud caked boot there instead. Relentless and manic, The Jesus Lizard were always everything you wanted to say and how you wished you could say it. Both bands signed to Capitol in the 90’s too, and the Surfers even managed to have somewhat of a hit album in “Electric Larryland.” Both bands are also back together in 2009, and are said to be attracting bigger crowds than they ever did then. It remains to be seen if Pennsylvania’s Pissed Jeans are able to do the same.

By God they’re doing their part on “King Of Jeans.” Being that they’re on Sub Pop the word you hear is that of the label returning to its roots, but I’d submit they’ve never had a band quite like Pissed Jeans. Nirvana were way poppier than this. Soundgarden and Tad were more metal. Mudhoney were more 60’s. If there was a Northwest band that reminded me of Pissed Jeans it would be The U-Men. Before Sub Pop was an eye booger on Bruce Pavitt’s cheek, The U-Men were terrorizing Seattle audiences (Pavitt actually managed the band for a spell) with their booze fueled punk rock swamp-a-billy horror show. The tale of The U-Men always starts and ends with their infamous Bumbershoot show where front man Jon Bigley poured lighter fluid in the Seattle Center Mural Amplitheater fountain and lit the water on fire. So yeah, Pissed Jeans remind me of them, the Surfers, and Jesus Lizard as well as Black Flag, Fang, and, on occasion, The Melvins.

The party line from the Sub Pop press manipulation desk is that Pissed Jeans is the sound of four beer bloated young men from nowhere USA railing against the wage slave existence in which they find themselves. I like the album better that way so I’ll buy. Besides Matt Korvette may actually be living this narrative (back in the day after all Sub Pop had everyone believing that Tad was a lumberjack.) Korvette told Stereogum about his life as an insurance company claims adjuster.

In a 40 hour work-week, the average adjuster is expected to complete 50-60 hours worth of work, so naturally there is a lot of burn-out and unhinging going on. I’ve seen so many conversations between adjusters and inanimate objects, people just screaming at fax machines or punching the printer. One lady literally smashed her keyboard to pieces, that’s not just an internet myth, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes.

And so that is the story of Pissed Jeans “King Of Jeans.” It’s an album of unbridled…. let’s not call it outrage, but “in-rage.” It’s not political, it’s personal. The difference between Korvette’s and his fellow drones is that he unafraid to examine his life and turn his frustration into art. On “Spent” he’s devistating in his assessment:

I slept for eight hours/and woke up tired
Thought about my desires/that I’m too nervous to try
I looked in the mirror/some blemishes I can’t hide
I drank a cold glass of water/but it didn’t satisfy
I’m spent

 I earned an extra hundred dollars
There’s nothing I want to buy
I could do 20 push-ups/if I was wiling to try
I went and got my car back/there’s a new noise this time
I drank a cold glass of water/but it didn’t satisfy
I’m spent

 I don’t feel/I dont care about anything that’s real
And my sleeping clothes make it through the day
Sweat pants and shirt

And by this time he’s really rolling as the band pounds and flails behind…. he wails this line:

I’ve spent like ten bucks on my life

That’s heavy, and it isn’t whining. This is the blues stripped of the swagger. It’s their name really. It’s walking around everyday as if you had pissed jeans.

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