Despite having been signed to the coveted Sub Pop Records for their past three full-length albums, Pissed Jeans only really became one of punk’s most interesting talking points following the release of their previous album, 2013’s Honeys, which was met with universal critical acclaim. This record arguably saw a limited change in direction for the Pennsylvanian punks, courtesy of the abrasive merging of hardcore punk and noise, along with frontman Matt Korvette’s frenzied diatribes about typically mundane topics, with Honeys specifically pertaining to the vocalist’s experience with middle-aged life and working a middle class job. Personally, I have often admired Pissed Jeans’ undeniably punk attitude and their often liberal approach to songwriting, as this has led to some crazy and aggressive moments on their previous records that went over rather well. I also found Korvette’s ramblings to be fairly entertaining and often amusing in the blunt way in which he deals with everyday topics. As a result, I most definitely have an appreciation for Pissed Jeans, although I have also found their material in the past to be somewhat one-dimensional. The group certainly had a unique aesthetic and hardly sounded run-of-the-mill, but they often adhered very closely to their distinct formula, which led to some of their work not leaving a lasting impression on me overall. With the release of the band’s latest album, Why Love Now, I have found myself retaining similar reservations to those I had for their previous albums, perhaps even to a slightly exacerbated extent on this record at times. Pissed Jeans’ continuation of their piss and vinegar aesthetic will surely settle well amongst fans of the group, but for me personally, Why Love Now isn’t the record to yet completely win me over to their music.
Why Love Now opens with Waiting on My Horrible Warning, perhaps the most intense and gruelling track on the record, but it certainly conveys the kind of spirited vigour that I would like to hear more of from Pissed Jeans. The cut opens with what sound like the dying screams of an evil witch, as the bass starts up its chugging, crotchet-beat groove that remains throughout much of the song, providing the foundation for Korvette’s maniacal rant. The frontman’s performance on this track is one of the most insane and contorted that I have heard him put to tape, with his gargling roars sounding like a drunk Tom Waits trying his hand at punk, with lines like “I used to play punk / But now I’m just singing the blues” only fortifying this comparison. What’s more, with the simple and ceaseless bass line and a clobbering of the drums marking the first beat of each bar, this composition assumes an atmosphere somewhere between post-punk and industrial rock, whilst nevertheless sounding undeniably like Pissed Jeans. The additions of stuttering synths and buzzing guitars as the song progresses build it up to a noisy climax that displays Pissed Jeans left-field approach to songwriting with a revitalised fervour that appeals to me greatly, as someone who has found the band’s previous material to often be lacking in variety. The next track, The Bar Is Low, is a more typical marriage of punk and noise rock for the group, but it nevertheless acts as a fantastic demonstration of what Pissed Jeans can do with this sound at their best. The crunchy guitar chords and growling bass line seem to be battling it out atop a straightforward drumbeat that occasionally throws in some accents to complement Korvette’s vitriolic vocal delivery. On the topic of the singer’s delivery, during the chorus, Korvette comes through a genuinely catchy tune that seeps through his writhing shouts, which acts as a well-earned reward for the listener being assaulted by the frontman’s angry harangue during the song’s first-half. Ultimately, these first two tracks demonstrate two sides to Pissed Jeans that I would really love to see more of; the side that is willing to push the boat out and incorporate some crazier and more experimental ideas, and the side that is able to apply the band’s pre-established formula in a well-written and high-energy format.
Past these two tracks, however, Pissed Jeans seem to play it rather safe on Why Love Now, in the sense that their stylistic risks are very minimal and they remain rather resigned to the sound that has dominated their previous output. Whilst a lack of much sonic variation is not as glaring of an issue for a band like Pissed Jeans as it would be for other acts, with their appeal being heavily based around their niche aesthetic, I still feel, like I have done with the group’s previous albums, that a lot of these songs, whilst often enjoyable for the time that they are on, are limited in the substance they provide beyond their quirks. As an example, (Won’t Tell You) My Sign is a stand-out track as a result of its loose structure that is largely based around monotonous, droning bass fuzz, guitar squeals and pummelling drums, with an expected vocal performance from Korvette. The song’s arbitrary bursts of noise continuously bubble until the cacophony boils over, as the piece descends into an increasingly disorganised jumble of auditory turmoil. The band definitely pull off this approach with a certain amount of focus, but the track is nonetheless rather predictable in its development and is largely hinged on its whacked-out, noisy mood, which doesn’t provide a whole lot of substance that would make me want to revisit it quickly. It’s Your Knees is also an interesting track as a result of riffage that is slightly evocative of metalcore, and thanks to its heavy emphasis on accented rhythms. Again, these details make for a song that can certainly be appreciated for the time that it’s playing, but it also could have been developed slightly more, as the song progresses much as one would expect, which can diminish its punch slightly. Certain other tracks, such as Ignorecam or Cold Whipped Cream, arouse similar feelings for me, but then again, I do also feel that the extent to which this detracts from the album isn’t as serious as it would be for other artists, given that Pissed Jeans’ sprightly and forceful performances make up somewhat for an occasional lack of complete substance.
Overall, Why Love Now is, for the most part, more of the same for Pissed Jeans, but this should come as little surprise at this point in their career. The band still sound pissed and punk, and that’s all that many people will want from an artist such as Pissed Jeans. For me, however, this latest effort from the group hasn’t exactly changed my opinion on them in any particular way, perhaps with the exception of the fact that Waiting on My Horrible Warning has given me hope for more explorative material from the band in the future. This aside, I retain my admiration for Pissed Jeans’ gritty, vitriolic, and distinct approach to punk music that has justly won them a significant following from within the scene. I certainly can’t deny the band their definitive musical identity and, although Why Love Now hasn’t reshaped my overall opinion on Pissed Jeans, I remain hopeful that a future release from the group could win me over.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7/10