Monday, February 25, 2013

REVIEW: Pissed Jeans -- Honeys

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Henry David Thoreau

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"You know, there's nothing better than making yourself dinner and watching Thursday night TV. Also, I just got a computer. And I'm fanatical about doing the laundry. There's nothing better than a stack of fresh, clean clothes. Except maybe a good movie. You know that creepy-looking guy you stare at two seats behind you, thinking, who would come to a movie by himself? That's me."

Brendan Frederick Shanahan

     I think the conventional wisdom is that Thoreau is talking about desperation borne of the mundane, the crushingly prosaic everyman problems of everyday existence; how they divert us from our natural state of pursuing the heroic, of seeking the divine. And although I expect he's right that this is the way most men lead their lives, Matt Korvette, lead singer for Allentown-born and Philadelphia-based punk rock band Pissed Jeans, takes a different path. The tedium, you see, is his muse. On their just released fourth album, Honeys, his desperation is thunderous. 

      And, as will become obvious if you do yourself the favor of buying and listening to this terrific album, there is no mimesis in the art of Pissed Jeans. This is the point of including the passage from Shanahan above instead of some fancypants William Carlos Williams poem like "The Red Wheelbarrow." Don't come to this looking for metaphor. To quote the contemporary philosopher Tyrone Willingham, "it is what it is." When Korvette sings about cafeteria food in the song "Cafeteria Food," he really means cafeteria food, and he really does hope his project manager dies of cancer, just like he says. When he sings about choosing a health plan on "Health Plan," he really is talking about his health plan, a health plan with zero approved doctors. As you can see for yourself, there's no reason to get all existential about it: 

This is the most accessible Pissed Jeans record so far, mainly because all the songs are compact, taut little bombs of furious ennui. There's no noodling around, no self-indulgence. You still hear the Jesus Lizard influence all over the place, but you'll also hear occasional Nirvana-ish hooks, like on "Vain in Costume," which is probably my current favorite:

So you might be thinking to yourself, "Matt Korvette's a freaking rock star; how can what he sings be authentic? What does he know about white collar hell?" The easy, smartass response would be, "Well, what does Elton John know about brawling on weekends? or Can Barry Manilow even locate Cuba on a map?" The truth, though, is even better (well, better is sort of a relative term here). You see, Matt Korvette is only a rock star at night. During the day, he's a Philadelphia insurance adjustor. That's right, he's in that most hellish of hells -- the insurance industry. Feel his pain, and buy his band's album (it's out on Sub Pop).

Here's the best video I've seen in a year. 

Visit Pissed Jeans on Facebook and at Sub Pop.

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