Album Review: Honeys – Pissed Jeans
Did you know Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette is an insurance claims adjuster by day? Do you care? Does that knowledge alter the way you listen to his music? I mean, the man probably has to have a day job because, you know, everyone steals his music. The fact that the guys in Pissed Jeans have day jobs shouldn’t be that big a deal; the thing is, it’s not that he has a job that fascinates people, it’s that his job is insurance. For reasons which are beyond me, people can’t help but be intrigued by Korvette’s pseudo-corporate leanings, his obsession with his thinning hair-line, and all manner of other details which have little to do with his band's extremely emotional, and at times nearly savage, music (well, other than the fact that he sings about such things all the time).
I’ve long been of the opinion that the modern age’s lack of mystery, and constant need for information, keeps artists from becoming larger-than-life. Could you see Kiss elevating to their absurd heights if everyone had referred to them as "Teachers from Queens", instead of "The Demon, Starchild, Cat, and Space Ace"? I’m not at all saying Pissed Jeans contains that type of over-the-top, ridiculous mystique, but much has been lost since we started demystifying everything. Pissed Jeans is a band comprised of real men, with real lives, but when you really think about it, that’s the way it’s always been. It shouldn’t be something worth mentioning, and I’m playing to the same master by starting my review this way, but I wanted to present an alternate stance.
The truth is, I personally don’t care where a band is from, who they grew up with, what the members studied in college, or who anyone’s father was, as long as their music possesses a quality or spark which I can appreciate. Thankfully, for the purposes of this review, Pissed Jeans' latest record, Honeys, possesses both a spark worth appreciating, and an assault worth experiencing.
Honeys kicks off with former Clef Notes Track Of The Week Bathroom Laughter, a track which you should have been thoroughly enjoying for the past month now. Bathroom Laughter is a hysterical explosion of anxiety, which violates your ears in the best possible way for the first 1:17, before somehow managing to find a hidden reserve of fury for the final minute and twenty seconds. It goes without saying that the band could not have made a better choice as far as first tracks go. Things “come down” quite a bit for Chain Worker, as it’s reminiscent of the slow-motion sludge of early Black Sabbath records, with Randy Huth’s bass stretching over the track like an oppressive shadow (not a bad thing) while Korvette shares more of his patented adult angst via barely decipherable screams. When Chain Worker’s gloom subsides, Honeys picks back up with Romanticize Me, a track which showcases the more menacing qualities of Korvette’s voice during the verses, before slapping your face with its "RO-MAN-TI-CIZE ME" refrain during the choruses.
Romanticize Me actually kicks off a stretch of solid, brief, and brutal punches to the brain disguised as hardcore songs. Vain In Costume makes effective use of hammer-on power chords during the verses, which make the song feel like it’s jumping through your speakers at points. You're Different (In Person) uses some exceptional drumming (seriously, Sean McGuinness might be the most talented guy in this band), and a deceptively difficult-sounding angular legato guitar line, to create wonderful tension, which is cathartically dispersed by Korvette's wailing. Cafeteria Food is a Pacific Northwest-channeling fog-obscured trudger, which showcases some of Korvette's most profound observations concerning maturity and empty rote. Some of those observations are the kind of things which aging critics have seemed particularly drawn to, but they maintain an abstract quality to me which makes it feel somewhat like voyeurism, though admittedly it's a voyeurism I manage to enjoy.
Honeys' second half is separated by Something About Mrs. Johnson, an instrumental reset-type piece which does not show the band at its best and is not worth discussing. Luckily Male Gaze quickly follows it, and overwhelms everything with its gloriously grinding cadence and sprawling boundlessness. Cathouse follows Male Gaze and, outside of Bathroom Laughter, it may be the album’s catchiest song. There is a somewhat formulaic construction to Cathouse (complete with semi-ubiquitous drum intro), but the conventional structure and tempo gives the track an ultra-palatable quality (for Pissed Jeans) which frames the song's aggro-pop stylings well. Other highlights from the album’s second half include the malevolent Loubs, Honey’s longest and most ambitious track, and the closer, Teenage Adult, a track containing lyrics which I refuse to read, for fear that they may strike too close to home.
In the end Honeys may very well be the best Pissed Jeans record from start to finish. The band isn’t out there trying to reinvent the wheel, nor are they releasing massive multi-tiered concept records like other post-hardcore acts which I am fond of, but they are putting out honest and pure music, which is an honorable pursuit no matter what your day job is.