On their second outing for Sub Pop, King of Jeans, Pissed Jeans return with a record that is at once more conventional than 2007’s exciting but flawedHope for Man and yet builds on their basic formula. They create a fast moving punk rock record full of skull crushing thrash and neo-slackerdom edifice. Gone are the bizarre track listing choices of Hope for Man that hurt its pacing; now they blow through the first five tracks only to momentarily calm for the Sabbathy sludge of “Request for Masseuse.” There is even a hint of ’90s grunge on the relatively catchy “R-Rated Movie” or album closer “Goodbye (Hair)” with its dissonant arpeggios.
Throughout, the band keeps its toolbox comparatively simple: fuzzed out bass, thundering toms and snare, and vocalists Matt Korvette’s growl. Guitarist Bradley Fry adds a few new tricks with some delay pedal and even a hint of the occasional guitar solo sandwiched between otherwise crunchy riffing and squealing feedback, but always anchored by one of the punchiest rhythm sections working today. One might wish to see more of Hope’s stranger musical bits, the lulls, the feedback squalls, etc., repeated, but whatever Pissed Jeans may have left behind, they come through with a more consistent and enjoyable long player.
In the end, Pissed Jeans stick to what they do best on this effort: loud punk rock as informed by ’90s noise/post hardcore as it is by that scene’s ’80’s hardcore forbearers. The energy comes off as honest, and the lyrics deviate from either’s conventions, building on most of the promise of their debut. If they make a misstep it’s that they play it a little safer this time around, but King of Jeans is so busy building its dark frenzy that you hardly even notice.