Radical anti-commercial Dadaist pranksters, Pissed Jeans, prove boisterous vertigo-inducing art-damaged delirium and grimy rough-hewn gruffness could still rule the subterranean jungle. Sordid passive-aggressive business professionals by day, they’d rather be stuck in the scummy muck of stinky broken-down clubs than relish the cushy comfort their restrictive money-making traditional jobs proffer.
Though Pissed Jeans call God’s Country home, these misanthropic non-conformists make a turbulent hell-bent racket the devil would dig way more than any heavenly divinity. Formed from the ashes of formative combo, the Gate Crashers, and incipiently coined Unrequited Hard-On, Pissed Jeans self-described ‘slow dirge-y punk’ maintains an abrasive edge seemingly antithetical to hometown Allentown, Pennsylvania’s rural environs. High school pals Matt Korvette (vocals), Bradley Fry (guitar), and Dave Rosenstrauss (bass), joined by like-minded noise monger and ex-Navies drummer Sean Mc Guinness, ply brassy post-hardcore mayhem to savagely mangled aggro-rock brutality.
Influenced by ‘80s Dischord punk (Soulside; Minor Threat; Bad Brains; Hoover), 26-year-old Mc Guinness was too young to cheer on the original scene-makers, but admits to attending ten Fugazi shows since. His brawny pile-driven beat simply pulverizes – adding to the implosive tumultuousness Korvette’s head-spinning psychotic neuroses capitulates.
“I moved from DC to Philadelphia two years ago. Matt, who runs the small White Denim label, had a straight-up noise band, Air Conditioning, that I’d wanted to join,” Mc Guinness remembers. “But when I got in touch with him, Matt asked me to join Pissed Jeans. Everyone felt it’d work.”
Beforehand, Pissed Jeans had released a self-titled 2-song 7″ and long-play debut, Shallow, a gritty start-to-finish semi-thematic record with nary a bad song. Shallow’s squealing atonal contortions, crass squalor, and droll degradation came to a boil on contemptibly sniveling depravity, “Ashamed Of My Cum.” Overall, its wretchedly maniacal fury and chaotic lambasting set the imminent tone.
Less airy, spacey, and open-ended than that rudimentary disc, ‘07s mightily apoplectic Hope For Men (its appellation stolen from a neighborhood missionary) also topples rigid verse-chorus compliance with the same brazenly bloodthirsty zeal as fellow Sub Pop subversives, Wolf Eyes.
Mc Guinness remarks, “We didn’t get caught up wondering if people would like it. It’s a fucking raw punk record. Some songs were written in the studio and came together nicely. I tried to get Hope For Men on a local jukebox with lots of noisy recordings and the guy said it was too experimental.”
Shouting strangulated stanzas beyond the messy din, Matt Korvette spews venomous gut-bucket barbs atop dissonant molten metal sludge and puke-green grunge slime in a manner David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Jim Thirwell (Scraping Foetus From The Wheel), and Michael Gira (Swans) once yelped. His disheveled caterwaul bellows above ominously cataclysmic “People Person,” while thumping toms ceaselessly underpin the scree guitar lunacy, bringing vigorous vehemence to a satirical putdown mocking conservative dullards such as Korvette, a daytime claims adjuster.
“That and the last track, (the bowel-grating desecration) “My Bed,” are two of the same type song.” Mc Guinness offers, before inquiring, “Is it even music? Matt’s a nine-to-fiver dealing with people constantly yelling on the phone. But you don’t have to like what you do if it allows you to do things you like. That’s even more of a ‘fuck you’ to the man.”
Korvette’s belched-out groveling sprawls across discordantly volatile muffled shuffle, “Secret Admirer,” where crashing six-string contortions mutilate bone-crushing rhythmic thwacks. The portentous calamity continues on furiously grinding hullabaloo “A Bad Wind” and farcical dessert-craving growler “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream),” all of which possess blistering rancor and scabrous feedback redolent of early Butthole Surfers.
“People latched on to “Ice Cream” the most. It’s kind of a cult song in DC,” Mc Guinness claims. Nevertheless, he seems more enthralled by seditious Industrial gloom swoon “Jogger” and loner drone “Fantasy World” (a childhood anamnesis of pizza-eating soda-drinking impassivity). “To me, “Fantasy World” is like a freight train plowing right through. It’s a straightforward mind-boggler. There’s part of that ‘outcast making his own devises’ theme. But there’s also jealousy, hatred, and disdain, like when neighbors have a cool swimming pool and all you want is to be invited over to swim. “Jogger” was the first song written for the record. Brad took painstaking efforts to make the guitar speed up the way it did. You could compare it to a joggers heart rate.”
On the charging “I’m Turning Now,” Korvette’s gruffly howled croak gets skewed inside Fry’s scurried “Sabre Dance”-derived dawning and supervened Blue Cheer-whirled psychedelia. Fry, an affirmed surf guitar devotee bewitched by legend Dick Dale, relies on emotion instead of technical ability.
“My playing has always been sloppy. It’s developed, but I did it more on feeling than know-how,” Fry avers. “Over the years, it has evolved. I hate to do things twice. The songs, done live, are different. The basic structure and the fills I rip through on the fly. Some nights it’s good, sometimes, not so hot.”
Live at dingy Brooklyn storage facility, Death By Audio, Fry’s spontaneously misshapen, brayed shrills hang densely in the gusty murk as stationery bassist Randy Huth (who has replaced diesel mechanic Rosenstrauss) renders gruesome ruptured swells. Korvette and Mc Guinness go topless to beat the sweltering 100-degree heat in the white brick-walled cubical space. A sweat-drenched Korvette grimaces atop a chair, pulls off a few bad muscle poses, and fakes seizures in an absurdist display prior to stage diving into the booze-soaked crowd. Mc Guinness anchors the cantankerous cacophony with trampling railroad track beats and combative rat-a-tat constancy, fastening and quickening the reckless wrangling. Each crusty connective mantra collides into the next disfigured disembowelment, gathering steam and resolute irritability.
“My willingness to put up with the bands’ orneriness (was important),” Mc Guinness snickers. “I’m a good performer who doesn’t put on a suit or become a different person. My dedication to music is clear and evident. I don’t force anything. I want my drums to be stripped down and basic as possible without becoming wanky – nothing flashy. The sense of morphing, changing, and evolving appeals to me.”
Fry concludes, “A lot of the stuff we do in the studio, there’s an idea laid down naturally. We may use the first take if it’s unique enough. It’s significant we don’t repeat ourselves.”