Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It feels lazy to mention Donald J. Trump's apocalyptic presidency in an album review these days, but sometimes the source material demands it. Since the election of 'The Donald' in November, the music world has been waiting for the first post-Trump record. An album of hate, anger and perhaps even confusion that an establishment that holds distain for everyone other than the straight white male has managed to take over the white house, and with it, western democracy.
Like a fist fight in a prison yard, Pissed Jeans ' music has always had a savage brutality and darkness to it. In this respect Why Love Now is no different. With riffs weighted so they're heavy enough to bludgeon, and vocals that feel like they're being torn straight from the larynx, the album is a tour de force of high octane refrains and filth-driven focus.
M ost neo-grunge sounds pretty derivative. Pennsylvania's Pissed Jeans, however, aren't updating the 90s so much as peddling ear-curdling sludge laced with punk misanthropy, the kind of witty filth that can't help but compare favourably with Sub Pop's prime. Why Love Now, PJ's fifth, is a surprisingly tuneful deconstruction of themes as varied as cancer (Waiting on My Horrible Warning), the modern workplace ("singer" Matt Korvette is an insurance adjuster) and male assholery that swings between scary and hilarious.
On their fifth LP, Philadelphia's Pissed Jeans cast their holy rage upon the irritating banalities that we face day-to-day. Yet 'Why Love Now' truly comes to life when the band uses their punishing sound to explore the absurdity of modern masculinity. 'I'm a Man', the album's centrepiece, features a roaring extended breakdown from the band and a spoken word showcase from author Lindsay Hunter, who drops more than a few cringe-worthy lines on her way to lambasting the beer-swilling, sex-obsessed male chafing against the drudgery of office life.
I f these berserk times demand similar music, then Pissed Jeans are the go-to combo. Co-produced by Lydia Lunch, the Pennsylvania quartet's fifth album both captures and rages against the lunacy of modern life, pouring derision on everything from fetish webcams and office sexism to the increasing predominance of what singer Matt Korvette calls "shitheads". Their vehicle for this is a right old racket, as they rampage from sludgy post-hardcore to a kind of debauched grunge, and high-octane guitar riffs tumble into tribal drums.
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a male feminist is shut up and listen to women who know what they're talking about better than you. That advice might hold doubly true for male musicians. For every "Suggestion"--and, really, there's only been one "Suggestion"--there are countless self-identified good guys looking for an easy pat on the back simply for having their heart in the right place.
Philly punk outfit Pissed Jeans return after a four-year gap with Why Love Now, a raucous and unsparing take on the monotony of modern life. While the ferocity of Pissed Jeans may not be for the faint of heart, their intensity is justified; in his guttural growl, frontman Matt Korvette sings of the frustrations of desire, masculinity and mundane office life throughout the album's 12 tracks, a background of thunderous drum hits, heavily distorted bass tones and thrashing guitar riffs. If you can where Korvette's gravelly wail is in full force, Why Love Now's second track "The Bar Is Low" packs an anthemic punch in its lamentation of the low standard set for "good" men these days.
Pissed Jeans have made a career of subverting the workaday norms of modern life. Their lyrical focus has always been on the small grievances and annoyances that make up our daily lives. By lambasting the habitual exasperation and indignation of everyday life, they have always been a very relatable band. Never focused on a revolutionary ideal or spouting insurrectionist slogans as part of a society altering manifesto, their concerns have always seemed more domestic, more common.
Lumbering in like a diminishing storm on the world's muggiest night, "Waiting on My Horrible Warning," the lead-off track from the Pennsylvania gutter rock unit's fifth studio outing, provides the listener with no relief. Why Love Now's mission statement of "taking aim at the mundane discomforts of modern life -- from fetish webcams to office-supply deliveries" is implemented with extreme prejudice on sludgy, anti-hope anthems like "The Bar Is Low," "Ignorecam," and "Have You Ever Been Furniture. " The sad banality of sex, food, and existential crisis looms large over the proceedings, and frontman/orator Matt Korvette, whose tortured, Lemmy-meets-GG Allin croak suggests lungs lined with barbed wire, is the perfect emotional wasteland tour guide.
On their fifth album, Pissed Jeans offer yet another album full of commentary on the working world and that of interpersonal relationships from guys with jobs and kids. The music is still raw, sludgy, and what Robert Christgau would've called "pigfuck" back in the '80s to describe some of their influences. However, they do change things up a bit. The most striking difference is that the album's centerpiece is a spoken word monologue from author Lindsay Hunter entitled "I'm a Man." Given its office-related subject matter and given song titles like "Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst" and "Have You Ever Been Furniture," it's clear that not much has really changed, though.
If we take levels of anger to run from the mildly peeved through to the righteous blowing of a gasket, then Pennsylvania punks Pissed Jeans go way beyond the latter end of the spectrum and create their own special category. This is modern life sliced up with the precision of a medical scalpel and then force-fed through a high-density filter of piss and vinegar. Picking up where 2013 predecessor Honey, left off, Pissed Jeans rail furiously against digital alienation (Ignorecam), empty relationships (Love Without Emotion) and office sexism (I'm A Man).
The world of heavy guitar music isn't known for its sense of humor. You have your bearded metalheads, singing about wizards and spending Friday evenings perfecting the wrist control needed to cleanly execute their lightspeed guitar solos. You have your sloganeering hardcore punks, shouting in unison about the the importance of loyalty to your brothers and the harmful effects of beer and cigarettes.
Ah the bruised, emasculated male psyche, allegedly responsible for everything from the foaming-mouthed rants of men's rights crusaders to the election of the oval office's current orange-haired occupant. It's not easy being a man nowadays is it lads? Remember those heady pre-feminist, pre-immigration days when you could just come home from your steady job down at the mill having retained enough of your heavily exploited income to feed a nuclear family and still drink your suppressed sorrows away in tearless silence? Now all we have are zero-hour office shifts and a daily dose of checked privilege to look forward to. Am I right or am I right, eh? Apologies, brothers.
The world of Philadelphia's premiere shit-stirrers Pissed Jeans is one of delirious sludge and wild-eyed drudge. They stand out from the rest of the pack for their incisive, insidious digs at male privilege, sexual frustration, self-immolating self-image and false pride, laughing maniacally as the house burns down around them. Their live shows up the ante and then some, presenting sparkplug explosions of propulsive power and leering humour, a flailing, sweating, gnashing and gurning entertainment powerhouse too smart to follow convention yet too dumb to deny it.
Pissed Jeans exist to bother you. They want to crawl under your skin and live there, confronting you about your mundane existence and throwing it in your face. They constantly find new ways to rupture their core audience. On Why Love Now, that means bringing in some help. Lydia Lunch--a veteran of the no wave scene--allows Pissed Jeans to dig deeper into their own oddities.