The latest deep sigh of ‘Whatever, fuck it’ of 2017, comes to us courtesy of “Why Love Now.” Long-time Sub Pop residents, Pissed Jeans, have delivered a lush offering of tracks that showcase the band’s ability to challenge genre boundaries while still leaving the home team satisfied. Pissed Jeans’ unique brand of noisy punk have carried with them a musical styling that appeals to fans of punk and hardcore while not fully settling into a deep groove of either of the sonic monikers. Why Love Now, the fifth full-length product of the raucous quartet, is finding itself spinning on repeat on many-a-turntable, and for good reason.
Sonically, “Why Love Now” is a much more adventurous and experimental album than what one may have come to expect from Pissed Jeans. That’s certainly not to say that the band has ever lacked depth of sound; but fans have become accustomed to the big empty room sound that Pissed Jeans and many of their contemporaries and plenty of predecessors tend to lean on. This record offers a breath of fresh air and not only shows off the band’s musical skill, but also their creativity in production – the result of a team-effort on the part of P.J., Arthur Rizk, and the infamously fabulous no wave antihero, Lydia Lunch. From poppy, athem-esque tracks like “The Bar is Low,” with its surfabilly affectations to straight up bangers “Ignorecam” and “It’s Your Knees,” Pissed jeans is exploring sonic territory that should seem novel for them – if only in the sense that we’ve not necessarily heard sounds like this before from their previous offerings. But they’ve established a masterful level of control that finds each track feeling like an unexpected surprise, but sitting just right on their respective tracklist positions.
“Why Love Now” opens with the sparse, bleak “Waiting on My Warning,” a snarling self-assessment that has an angry, yet still apathetic aesthetic. Feels like lazy self-disgust – the kind where your feelings of self-loathing are swiftly overtaken by the novel idea of getting high, eating junk, and parking yourself in front of your laptop so you can watch reruns of The Office. It’s a great establishing shot for the record and the band’s overall ethos – if you can call it an ethos at all. “The Bar is Low” immediately breaks through the dark cloud with a hip-shaking groove reminiscent of The Knack, Blondie, and Heart. “Ignorecam” creates some – dare I say – mosh-able moments; it’s a fucking rager of a track that could easily find you accidentally breaking something if you’re idiotically dancing in the living room hoping your partner or roommate doesn’t walk through the front door and catch you…or am I the only adult who still does this? “Love Without Emotion” is a hypnotic easy-rider of a song with a killer riff that I just want to hear (and play…once I learn it) over and over. Guitar tones galore, sincere and creative production, and aesthetic variation mark “Why Love Now” as a significantly more complex work from Pissed Jeans that both scratches the itches in a reliable fashion and simultaneously brings new toys to the table.
I’ve come to love vocalist Matt Korvette’s approach to lyricism. Korvette foregoes the sad-boy hopes and dreams and eschews the oft-romanticized self-hatred in a way that is not only refreshing but also sincere. It’s easy to misread P.J. lyrics as nihilistic and sophomoric, but a more intentional read finds the lyrical landscape of Pissed Jeans as heavy commentary. This is neither the hopeless ballad of centered around how much the world sucks nor the morose croonings of a wannabe tortured artist. Korvette’s lyrical focal point is much more concerned with the everyday stupid, shitty, pathetic thoughts that rattle around in our heads. Whether he’s pointing the finger at our laughable self-importance or teasing out the everyday tears and fears that we don’t write about in our journals (because if someone finds my journal, I really want them to see how deep I can be; waxing poetic about how my date’s kneecaps weirded me out doesn’t seem like the thoughts of a thinking man), Korvette finds a way to breathe a heavy sigh directed at fragile masculinity without coming off as overly political. Don’t get me wrong, I love Man is the Bastard as much as the next guy, but Pissed Jeans has carved out a specific rhetorical niche that offers commentary and criticism in a way that’s much less focused on the finger pointed at you and much more focused on the three pointing back at ‘me.’ Even “I’m a Man,” the album’s spoken word midpoint penned and performed by author Lindsay Hunter, conjures a message that’s as hysterically funny as it is sinisterly terrifying.
For fans of The Jesus Lizard, Unsane, and the sound of masculinity shattering like fine china, “Why Love Now” is equal parts sad, happy, menacing, jovial, fun, and a bummer. You’ll love it, or at least, you should.