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Pissed Jeans - Hope For Men [Sub Pop - 2007]

If you've ever been to Pissed Jeans' home town of Allentown, Pennsylvania, then you're aware of the fact that there's not too much to do there. Allentown prospered as a working class community bolstered by the local steel industry until the 1970's when the plants closed down. Although the town has rebounded a bit since then, it's for the most part still economically depressed. The other aspect to Allentown is that it's surrounded by sprawling suburbs lined with shopping malls and housing subdivisions. All of that seems to figure into Hope For Men. The lyrics reflect the boredom and the weirdness of small town America.

Pissed Jeans have been compared to Flipper and Drunks With Guns because there's a sludgy, repetitive attack somewhat in line with those bands. The comparisons are misleading though; Flipper's lyrics were more weirdly existential, and their music, though bass heavy, was anchored by the inimitable Jackson Pollock-like guitar squall of Ted Falconi. Drunks With Guns, though sometimes concerned with similar subject matter, were much more monochromatic musically than the Jeans. For my money, Pissed Jeans are a little bit closer to Black Flag for a couple of reasons. Musically, because of the Sabbath-ish power riffs, semi-improvised lead guitar explorations and shouted vocals. Lyrically they remind me a lot of early Flag because they often throw barbs at the shallow yuppie attitudes and the terminal boredom associated with their surroundings.

Beyond all of these comparisons, there are also points of originality which separate Pissed Jeans from their supposed influences. There's a self effacing humility to the lyrics, making their angry observances a bit more good-natured than meets the eye.

Aside from the humorous, though admittedly somewhat demented tunes, there's also a couple of downright creepy ones; Secret Admirer is a first person narrative from a stalker's point of view. Scrapbooking sounds like a tame enough title for a song, but because of it's echoey, semi-industrial scree and Matt Korvette's sinister vocal delivery of such seemingly mundane lines as "gazing at pictures", it's fairly nightmarish.

What strikes me about Pissed Jeans, further supported by PR and interviews is that they appear to be a normal bunch of guys, working straight day jobs to make a living. It's not hard to imagine that these guys have family members or girlfriends who are into, say, scrapbooking or something like that. I could be wrong, and of course I mean no disrespect in assuming that, but keeping this in mind gives the idea that some of these hateful jabs at society are delivered with a wink of the eye.

Having said very little so far about the music, it's frequently sludgy, anchored by heavy bass with fairly metallic guitar which sounds as if Greg Ginn (Black Flag) was taking a stab at the AC/DC song book. The drums are smashed hard and the vocal delivery is usually a pained howl.

There will be inevitable comparisons to the Load Records stable, but this music is less of a spazz-fest than that type of fare. The key thing about Hope For Men, and for their debut album Shallow, for that matter, is the fact that their crushing punk attack translates so well to the recorded medium (be it vinyl or CD). Punk, or whatever it is you consider this music, is notoriously difficult to take from the live experience to the studio, but these guys seem to know what they're doing.

It's refreshing to hear such immediate music which bludgeons yet has a sense of humor. There's also an under-recognized intelligence to Pissed Jeans, which folks will probably catch up to in about 10 years or so.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Erwin Michelfelder
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