Fuck it: Pissed Jeans are the best punk-rock band since Mudhoney. Last year, on 6/6/06, the pride of Allentown, Pa., released a 7-inch called "Don't Need Smoke to Make Myself Disappear." It was about this guy who didn't need smoke to make himself disappear. In the song, Pissed Jeans' singer, Matt Korvette, growled about being a server in a restaurant and hating all the customers: "And those shoes are tight," he sang about one patron in particular. "They must be new—I wouldn't mind if you tripped in a puddle or two." The music backing up his teeth-clenched sneers sounded like it was an animal ripping something apart. The anger packaged neatly into that little square single was unlike any other, and when I first set that needle to vinyl, all I knew is that I wanted more.
Pissed Jeans With Unnatural Helpers and Tiny Vipers. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. $7. 10 p.m. Fri., May 18.
Listen to a sample of Pissed Jeans' "I'm Sick."
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If you grew up in some stupid town in Pennsylvania, like me, you can probably relate. Actually, if you grew up in some stupid town anywhere, you can probably relate. Punk rock like this is the direct by-product of living in working-class river towns where bad ideas, poor dope, and shit jobs all roll down the hillsides, creating a unique and ugly socioeconomic stew in the valley.
The region in question with Pissed Jeans is the Lehigh Valley, 100 miles from both New York City and Philadelphia on the Jersey border. When four dudes with no conscience get together to play music in this kind of place, the result is a mess of feedback-driven rage. It's the sort of music you listen to while breaking lawn furniture or stabbing a notebook with a pencil. Sure, I did this kind of stuff and have since moved on. But I still haven't let go of the boiling pit of bullshit I lug around inside me from growing up in the middle of nowhere and going to K-Mart with Mom to buy my school clothes. And neither have Pissed Jeans—because they are all adults now and haven't left the Lehigh Valley.
Pissed Jeans' upcoming full-length (and by the way, the guys in Pissed Jeans are the kind who would snicker at the sexual innuendo of "full-length"), Hope for Men, tears open with "People Person." The song is a pounding, frenzied number in which Korvette turns the hatred he projected on his customers from "Don't Need Smoke" toward a handsome, congenial co-worker.
Herein lies the secret of Pissed Jeans: They all still live in their hometown and have grown-up jobs that make them angry. You think you're hardcore? Fuck that. The bassist for this record, Dave Rosenstrauss, converts cars to run on biodiesel. Guitarist Bradley Fry works in account management somewhere, and singer Korvette is a claims adjuster for an insurance company. They mean it.
"People Person" sets the tone for the rest of the record, which is pretty much a knuckle-dragger of post-hardcore sludge from end to end. Songs like "Secret Admirer" and "Caught Licking Leather" are working-class punk masterpieces that sound like they were made out of dirt and hand grenades. The tempos plod along with choruses erupting into bashing Neanderthal insanity, recalling the glory days of Flipper, Fang, the Dicks, and Drunks With Guns. Elsewhere, Pissed Jeans prove themselves capable of a hell of a lot more than hairy-man rock. "Scrapbooking" and "The Jogger" are snarling, ambient pieces on which Korvette flexes his Iggy-like barks and growls while dirgey piano, feedback, and chains rattle behind him.
Punks everywhere have been waiting for a record like this, one that emerges from the muck and mire that is Joe Six-Pack's life. Some of us just have a few beers to wind down after work. Others get stoned. Some play tennis at Green Lake. Most watch television. Not Pissed Jeans. They get skuzzy in their basement with guitars and drums.
But considering how the success of Pissed Jeans' music hinges on them keeping their day jobs, the catch-22 looms large.