For all the attention paid to the fancy, artistic end of the rock spectrum, often lost is the fact that the genre’s purest form is a couple of guys and some amps in a garage. This is not lost on Mean Jeans, who dispense with the pretension and distill rock ‘n’ roll to its rawest essence. Clocking in at a lean 25 minutes, Are You Serious is about fighting, partying, and generally being a misanthropic misfit. Forget about corporate punk. Mean Jeans are for real.
That said, originality is not this band’s strong suit. While most punk bands that aren’t soulless corporate automatons can trace their history directly back to the Ramones, Mean Jeans take connection very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the line between influence, homage, and pure imitation is blurred within the album’s first 30 seconds. The problem here is two-fold. First of all, any band, no matter how studied, is going to come up short in comparison to the Ramones. Regardless of how perfectly Mean Jeans mimics the punk sound, it is fighting against the mythic crush of history. Even if the band is forgiven for setting its sights too high, slightly more troubling is how closely it sticks to the formula. Even after multiple listens, it is impossible to figure out where Mean Jeans ends and its love for the Ramones begins.
At this point, Are You Serious might sound like a total disaster. But despite the album’s definite limitations, there is an undeniable energy to songs like “Born On A Saturday Night,” “Slime Time,” and “Space Trash.” Derivative or not, it’s hard not throw a fist in the air when the Mean Jeans start banging away. There’s nothing new here, but given that the actual Ramones aren’t going to be making any records any time soon, Mean Jeans’ brand of pure punk is a passable substitute.