Pissed Jeans - Shallow

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2014-10-06

I remember distinctly the first time I heard ‘King of Jeans’ by Pissed Jeans. I couldn’t believe they’d gone under my radar. I was totally swept away by their bellicose hardcore sound: unrelenting, uncompromising and downright rude. So when I found out that Sub Pop were re-releasing their debut, Shallow, I thought, "There is no way this is slipping through my fingers!" 

It’s fair to say that the time span between Shallow and KOJ hasn’t altered their sound or approach.  These two albums are only four years and two albums apart but the band haven’t changed or mellowed during those times at all. All this is coupled with a shuddering reluctance to cave in to shift a few units. 

The support of their label has kept them strictly unconventional. In fact, Sub Pop founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman seem to be harking back to why they busted their asses in the first place to make Sub Pop successful by investing in similar noiseniks such as No Age and Metz ,in amongst an increasingly rich, diverse and eclectic roster of bands.

Shallow was released in 2005, initially on Parts Unknown Recordings and takes all the hallmarks of hardcore and noise: the anger of The Jesus Lizard, the animal instinct and belligerent approach of Big Black, the discord of early Sonic Youth, and the drive of Fugazi. It clocks in with only nine tracks, but those tracks leave you goggle-eyed and gob-smacked such is the intensity of their work and industry.

From the opening bars of ‘I’m Sick’, with its cacophony of noise and a hysterical yelp which sounds like an operation being performed without anaesthetic, you’re primed and ready. Welcome to Shallow.

The guitars are sharpened, highly-strung, packed with aggressive riffs and a penchant for squalls of noise. Second track ‘Boring Girls’ epitomises this. The vocal sounds like the calling-card of the local psycho, baiting us with a semi tearful delivery: “When they’re gone? I’ll miss those boring girls”

Hardcore can be defined by the shortness of its songs but Pissed Jeans are also happy to take you on a lengthy journey of uncomfortable noise, over seven-minutes of it, in fact, on ‘Ugly Twin (I’ve Got)’. The sea of guitar is the equivalent of a tsunami as it crashes through the eardrums with no sign of a let up in stamina. They then contradict with a 120-rush titled ‘Ashamed of My Cum’.

Back in the early 90s there was a scene in London that was nick named ‘Camden lurch’. It was a hybrid of gritty indie with a heavy dose of grind and hardcore. One of the bands that were part of that close-knit musical community was Silverfish, and their idiosyncratic delivery sits as a close cousin to Pissed Jeans, in particular ‘Closet Marine’ and ‘I Broke My Own Heart’.

There will be doubters, saying crap like “They’re just making a racket” and “Where’s the hit single?”, but this racket does come with a truckful of melody. Its challenging, ruffling sound is hard to turn off.

Shallow is inexorable, unrepentant, fucked up, screwed up, cathartic, breathless and bewildering. You’d be kidding yourself not to lend it your ears, wouldn’t you?

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