Over the course of three increasingly refined full length albums, Pissed Jeans emerged as the foremost catalogers of the mundane, marrying their blistering, Touch And Go/Amphetamine Reptile-indebted noise rock to an increasing list of unorthodox lyrical topics. They’re a venting outlet, a reliable source to turn to when looking for something that matches the internalized overdramatics held by those experiencing that which they yell about. On “False Jessii Pt. 2,” from 2009’s King Of Jeans, they extolled resistance to a variety of societal ideals, ranging from gym-sculpted physical idealness to simply showing up to a party with cold enough beverages. After the opening guitar squalls of debut album Shallow‘s “Sick,” they raged against the inconveniences of a mild illness. Few bands have bothered to deal with such topics, and even fewer have managed be so relatable in the process.
Honeys, the Allentown, PA band’s fourth full length, and third for venerable indie Sub Pop, represents the moment where they finally remove whatever filter they had remaining. The fast songs slash harder, the slower ones lurch with evil intent. At the middle of this is vocalist Matt Korvette, who directs more of his bile outwards, and is more vicious with the jabs he saves for himself. It would be easy for music this aggressive to take a turn for the lunkheaded, to seem like blind “woe-is-me” flailing. Yet by preserving his sterling wit and only toeing the line into overt dickhead territory, Korvette and Pissed Jeans emerge sounding more mature and dangerous than ever.
Bassist Randy Huth and guitarist Bradley Fry lock into a machine gun single chord for the verses of storming opener “Bathroom Laughter” while Korvette unfeelingly watches a coworker in the midst of some sort of breakdown in the office kitchen. Two tracks later on “Romanticize Me,” Korvette is the uncooperative partner in a relationship, apparently unwilling to work on his flaws if they dare require him to put any sort of effort into it. Seemingly alone again by the next track, he delves into the world of shallow online dating, and can only express confusion and disgust at the process over Fry’s Jesus Lizard-recalling guitar lines. “You’re different in person/I’m different in person,” sneers Korvette at the song’s end, articulating not only his disappointment in the person he meets, but acknowledging his own failure once again.
All of this misanthropy is just a lead up to “Cafeteria Food,” quite possibly one of the most lacerating moments in the Pissed Jeans catalog. While Fry, Huth, and drummer Sean McGuinness trip into a heavy-lidded plod, Korvette calmly sings of the joy (and increasingly absurd feelings that come with it) of finding out about the death of a despised co-worker. That it seems like such a victory to the protagonist of the song makes the song, one of the calmer ones on the album, downright terrifying in its portrayal of someone trapped and submitted to an eternally unsatisfying, suffocating lifestyle. We’re miles away from taking winking pot-shots at Whole Foods shoppers, as on Hope For Men‘s “The Jogger.”
It’s a little hard to believe that Pissed Jeans would be able to hit harder than on King Of Jeans, but with Honeys and its perhaps unintentional narrative of a man collapsing into a spiral of unspoken frustration, disgust with others/himself, and sheer boredom, culminating in a futile grasp at eternal adolescence (see closer “Teenage Adult”), they’ve somehow done it. Honeys is the band’s ultimate thesis statement, grounding their past triumphs in cruel reality that, if not buffered by their expert sense of humor, would hit too close to home too many times to count.