Pissed Jeans : Half Divorced

Pissed Jeans Half Divorced review

Over the last 20 years, Pissed Jeans have become one of the most prominent noise rock bands in America. That’s an accomplishment in itself, but it takes on greater significance when one considers that the band is a side hustle, with each of the members holding down demanding jobs in the insurance and retail industries. In a way, it is fortuitous that this has been the case, for the band’s working environments have provided inspiration for some of their most memorable and evocative lyrics. Some of these have included “Cafeteria Food,” which concerned the desire to poison an obnoxious colleague’s lunch; “I’m a Man,” a spoken-word track featuring sexually inappropriate orders given by novelist Lindsay Hunter, narrating in the second person as a lecherous boss; and “Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst,” which addressed excessive dedication to a job many would find monotonous.

Pissed Jeans made a big impression on their 2005 debut Shallow, earning themselves favorable comparisons with luminaries like The Jesus Lizard and Mudhoney. They subsequently signed to Sub Pop and released four more albums, setting the bar progressively higher with albums like 2013’s Honeys and then again with 2017’s Why Love Now. In a statement about their follow-up to that now seven-year-old career peak, Half Divorced, addresses “the tension between youthful optimism and the sobering realities of adulthood.” While the band’s lyrics have always trafficked in a fair bit of the latter and not an awful lot of the former, it is possibly the “tension” between these two states that represents the biggest divergence from their previous thematic concerns. Frontman Matt Korvette says the album “has an aggression within it, in terms of saying, ‘I don’t want this reality’ … I’m already looking elsewhere.” The record also finds the band knocking out some of the shortest, hardest, and fastest songs of their discography to date, with the majority of its songs clocking in at under two minutes.

The album’s furious tone and pace are established at its outset by the uptempo “Killing All the Wrong People,” which is powered by Sean McGuinness’ thumping drums, and “Anti-Sapio,” whose rapidly bellowed gang vocals are both angry and melodic. While this isn’t a straightforward hardcore punk album per se, some of the harder, faster tracks such as “Cling to a Poisoned Dream”, “Alive with Hate”, “Seatbelt Alarm Silencer”, and “Monsters” evoke Land Speed Record-era Hüsker Dü and Fucked Up’s Epics in Minutes. Pissed Jeans seem intent on upending listeners’ expectations with this record, subverting previous comparisons that have been made between their music and that of sludgier forebears like Flipper and Scratch Acid.

There is a palpable anger to the way in which Korvette belts out the lyrics to songs like “Sixty-Two Thousand Dollars in Debt” and “(Stolen) Catalytic Converter” that has rarely been present on previous Pissed Jeans releases. Although these songs deal with the sort of mundane, everyday bugbears that characterized earlier songs by the band, their subjects are presented as things worth getting angry about here, rather than in the wry, satirical light they have been previously. Whilst they retain these sorts of humorous elements on “Everywhere Is Bad”, the latter is nevertheless underpinned by an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction. Contrary to the expected path of maturity, Pissed Jeans seem to be getting more angry and less grumpy as they get older.

On “Junktime”, Half Divorced’s longest song, the band showcase one of the best songs of their career, musically speaking, Bradley Fry’s guitar seamlessly melding with Randall Huth’s bass and Sean McGuinness’s drumsthe song ending with a climactic, noisy solo from Fry. The album closes with its lead single, “Moving On,” a song with an insistent, melodic chorus that’s slightly softer than those preceding it. It may lack the intensity of other songs on the album on a sonic level, but the song’s titular refrain represents Half Divorced’s most direct vocalization of the album’s theme of seeking alternatives to modern life out of disgust. 

Half Divorced is Pissed Jeans’ angriest album yet, with Korvette offering more pointed barbs against mundane problems, rather than mere grumbling. The songs’ brevity and speed also mark a significant tonal shift from the slow, sludgy pace of some of the songs on Why Love Now, such as “Activia” and “(Won’t Tell You) My Sign.” While it lacks that record’s protean approach to tempo and style, it’s nonetheless a hugely enjoyable collection of songs that represent a considerable evolution in Pissed Jeans’ musicianship, one which will no doubt translate well to a live setting. 

Label: Sub Pop

Year: 2024

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Pissed Jeans Half Divorced review

Pissed Jeans : Half Divorced

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