- by Andy Brown Release Date:2013-02-25 Label: Sub Pop
There's a video on YouTube where Matt Korvette talks about the importance of The Birthday Party to his band, Philadelphia-based punk-rock types Pissed Jeans. Korvette mentions a particular performance by the band on a German TV show where the post-punk extremists look "like the craziest band" he'd seen. Essentially a mess of hair, cigarettes and drunken energy; The Birthday Party perform 'Junkyard' with all the confrontational swagger that made an icon out of a young Nick Cave. This is the band that Korvette wanted to "emulate entirely" and "steal everything" from. It's a trick that Pissed Jeans have pulled off and a statement of intent which reaps yet more results with the band's latest LP, Honeys.
Honeys was made with live performance in mind so is possibly the band's most 'straight ahead' LP since debut album Shallow. It's 35 minutes of intense, adrenaline-fuelled hardcore which shows no signs of the band wanting to slow down or make a 'mature' record (phew!). As the closing track, 'Teenage Adult', says:"There's no reason to ever grow up when there's so many toys/ and you don't care about being a man when you're one of the boys". Listening to Pissed Jeans recreates that thrill of formative years listening to Sub Pop's most famous signings, Nirvana.
Highlights include the Jesus Lizard-meets-Bleach-era-Nirvana racket of 'Bathroom Laughter' and the energetic (that puts it mildly) 'Romanticize Me' ("Take all my faults and twist them in your hand until I look like a sweet and thoughtful man"). The band's performances on each track are incredible and certainly go some way to nailing down the barley controlled chaos of their live shows. Korvette's lyrics have always managed to tackle fairly 'normal' subject matters with an admirable level of energy and 21st century anxiety. Korvette steers clear of the 6th form poetry or semi-political posturing others might favour. These are anxieties which the 30-year-old me can relate to, combined with music that can't help but appeal to my inner teenager.
'Health Plan' finds Korvette handing out some simple and sage advice: "Do you wanna know my secret? I stay away from doctors!" 'Male Gaze', meanwhile, looks into male guilt around the objectifying of the opposite sex, with Korvette admitting, "I'm not innocent, I'm guilty. I'm not innocentâ€¦ But I'm sorry!". It's here, as well as at other points during the album, that Korvette is more than a little reminiscent of Henry Rollins. A comparison I'm sure Korvette would appreciate.
Among the current glut of acts influenced by the classic 'alternative' rock bands of the 80s/90s (just don't say 'grunge'), Pissed Jeans are by far the most authentic. There's less sonic experimentalism than on the fantastic Hope for Men LP, but this isn't a weak point as the band have never sounded more vital (plus we still get the doom rock/Sunn0)))-indebted 'Chain Worker'). They still sound like they're playing because they simply have to and their level of commitment is refreshingly inspiring. So while they perhaps lack the initial shock-factor of the bands which preceded them, they certainly sit comfortably next to the likes of The Birthday Party, The Jesus Lizard and Black Flag. That's high praise indeed but there aren't many bands keeping that spirit alive much better than Pissed Jeans.