With the overflowing stream of DIY noise pop filling my in-tray this year I've grown accustomed to calamitous percussion and under-produced guitars drowning out distant vocals, and to be honest, I've loved nearly every minute of it. Having said that it feels pretty good to break out the third album from Pennsylvania scuzz-punks Pissed Jeans having not heard a peep from them since 2007's Hope For Men. Compared to much of the punk-de-jour we hear today this stuff has muscle. Since 2007 they've been bench pressing. Gone are the extended noise passages that gave Hope For Men the fear factor - but ultimately turned it into an abstract nightmare, and in their place are riffs so heavy they'll wrench your gut from its very foundations.
Opener False Jesli Part 2 displays this might to full effect with guitars that rumble with booming terror. It's awesome to hear a punk riff that clearly spends its down time in the gym with Metallica's front line. Matt Korvette's wrenched vocals smash this rumble with unadulterated power. The sound is a lot more focused here and as a result Korvette's irony oozing writing is way more audible. The thing that sets these guys apart from a lot in the genre is their mastery of the banal. They play with such power and Korvette's screaming can't help to make you pay attention. But as soon as you do, you realise he's singing about getting his car back from the shop only to find "there's a new noise this time," or the growled demands we get on Request For A Masseuse such as "take both thumbs and dig them in / stop my flesh from tightening." Instead of being totally throwaway the result is a piece of work that expertly and frighteningly describes the trials of the mundane human existence. The last song is called Goodbye (Hair) and sums up the M.O. of these guys. They're punks who are growing old and this is their story. They're not singing about smashing the system, but hair loss.
Request For A Masseuse and Spent are the two reprieves from the lightning pummeling the rest of the record offers, but the word reprieve is highly misleading. These two take a different path, that of slow, grinding sludge, but the result is the same: total and welcome destruction of the listener. Spent is over seven minutes long and never gets above a crawl. The guitars are drawn out and heavy as fuck. Randy Huth's bass comes into full effect here as it tunnels its way into your soul. Korvette is slow and methodical, painfully drawing out his agony for us all to experience. Displaying both boredom, sloth and general hair ripping frustration it slowly erupts into screams and guttural howls as his breakdown is made visible and he is finally "spent." It carries the weight of the album on its shoulders alone and nothing is the same after it.
It's easy to view this kind of head smashing as only that, but King Of Jeans is a focused piece of social commentary that hammers its point home without you even noticing. With the social observations heavily buried, it ends up proving it's point more cohesively than some records with more obvious direction ever manage. They might be punks who are trying to come to terms with the passage of time, but they still pose the same threat to the system by taking it down and thrusting a mirror image in its face in all its banality.