Pissed Jeans have been making gnarly noise for 13 years, and on their fifth album, Why Love Now, the male-fronted quartet is taking aim at the mundane discomforts of modern life—from fetish webcams to office-supply deliveries. “Rock bands can retreat to the safety of what rock bands usually sing about. So 60 years from now, when no one has a telephone, bands will be writing songs like, ‘I’m waiting for her to call me on my telephone.’ Kids are going to be like, ‘Grandpa, tell me, what was that?’ I’d rather not shy away from talking about the internet or interactions in 2016,” says frontman Matt Korvette.
Pissed Jeans’ gutter-scraped amalgamation of sludge, punk, noise, and bracing wit make the band—Korvette, Brad Fry (guitar), Randy Huth (bass) and Sean McGuinness (drums)—a release valve for a world where absurdity seems in a constant battle trying to outdo itself. Why Love Now picks at the bursting seams that are barely holding 21st-century life together. Take the grinding rave-up “The Bar Is Low,” which, according to Korvette, is “about how every guy seems to be revealing themselves as a shithead. It seems like every guy is getting outed, across every board of entertainment and politics and music. There’s no guy that isn’t a total creep.”
The lyrics on Why Love Now are particularly pointed about gender relations and the minefield they present in 2016. “‘It’s Your Knees’ is about the endless, unrequested, commenting on if you’d fuck a girl. ‘My great aunt won a cooking contest.’ ‘Oh, that’s pretty hot. I’d hit that,’” says Korvette. On “Love Without Emotion” Korvette channels Nick Cave’s guttural side while bemoaning his detachment over cavernous guitars. “Ignorecam” twists the idea of fetish cam shows- “where the woman just ignores you and watches TV or eats macaroni and cheese or talks on the phone”—into a showcase for Korvette’s rancid yelp and his bandmates’ pummeling rock.
As they did on their last album, 2013’s Honeys, Pissed Jeans offer a couple of “fuck that shit type songs” about the working world. And the startling “I’m A Man,” which comes at the album’s midpoint, finds author Lindsay Hunter (Ugly Girls) taking center stage, delivering a self-penned monologue of W.B. Mason-inspired erotica—office small talk about pens and coffee given just enough of a twist to expose its filthy underside, with Hunter adopting a grimacing menace that makes its depiction of curdled masculinity even more harrowing.
No Wave legend Lydia Lunch shacked up in Philadelphia to produce Why Love Now alongside local metal legend Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Goat Semen). “I knew she wasn’t a traditional producer,” Korvette says of Lunch. “I like how she’s so cool and really intimidating. She ended up being so fucking awesome and crazy. She was super into it, constantly threatening to bend us over the bathtub. I’m not really sure what that entails, but I know she probably wasn’t joking.” The combination of Lunch’s spiritual guidance and Rizk’s technical prowess supercharged Pissed Jeans, and the bracing Why Love Now documents them at their grimy, grinning best. While its references may be very early-21st-century, its willingness to state its case cement it as an album in line with punk’s tradition of turning norms on their heads and shaking them loose.