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Pissed Jeans - Hope for Men

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Artist: Pissed Jeans

Album: Hope for Men

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jun. 4, 2007

Like Clockcleaner, their comrades in Pennsylvanian outsider pathos, the guys in Pissed Jeans still owe the bulk of their aesthetic to a few dirtball AmRep piledrivers and prehistoric Butthole Surfers records, albeit with fresh technological heft. At a stretch where much “indie” music has become insufferably conformist and clean, this has gone over predictably well with the purists, the people who still look to music for more than a lifestyle soundtrack, or maintain a lifestyle that needs more aggressive, pessimistic scoring. And although the eastern malcontents are now signed to the Seattle indie that pretty much established the indie establishment, they’re as sloppy, sour, and comically misanthropic as ever. Everyone benefits.

Pissed Jeans diverges from Clockcleaner, and most of their mutual forebears, in subject matter. While the Buttholes and Haze’s Kids mired themselves in blue humor, Hope for Men takes a much more sincere angle on the grudges and dreams of adolescence. Matt Korvette’s bellowings swing the drenched Levis toward smug yuppies (“The Jogger,” “People Person”) – “successful” adults in general, really. Sex exists only in fantasy, tormented projection (“Caught Licking Leather”) and awkward, doomed overtures (“Secret Admirer”). Joy comes through the pre-driver’s-license pleasures of dessert (“I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)”), dreams of forging a fresh personality (“I’m Turning Now”) – solitary self-indulgence in general, really (“Fantasy World,” “My Bed”). In this world, there is no greater evil than self-satisfaction and no greater comedy than hope.

In this overamped context, it can be hard to decide how to read this. At one side, it’s the sort of negative-creep personacore that this sort of band has always needed. (“Cathartic,” yes, but this stuff is too monotonous to work, over a long-player’s course, without a personality.) At another, and at a stretch when every shaggy, sloe-eyed balladeer and every tough-guy rapper seems increasingly obsessed with Masculinity In Crisis, it’s a particularly complex, sincere, bittersweet retreat into the womb – a particularly nightmarish reversion to a dead-end childhood.

These bands are still around, and maintain this sort of id-driven clarity, because there’s still a place for good, angry, stupid, self-loathing fun. And Pissed Jeans is having it. When it starts stomping, when it curbs its epic pretensions, and particularly when it manages to do the former without doing the latter (the seven-plus-minute encore “My Bed”), this is the sort of dirty-ass rock party that can cleanse the intellect by putting it to sleep. It pours out its most primal anxieties in a last stand against maturity. It overloads all the silliest outmoded instincts. It gets a “fuck yeah” or nothing. It is dude rock.

By Emerson Dameron

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