On their fifth album of distinctive sludge-punk, Pissed Jeans are still finding new ways to express their malcontentment with the grind of everyday life. The band’s profile was raised on the impact of their 2013 LP Honeys via its cleaner production and stronger songwriting. Instead of coasting on an established sound of caustic rants over classic grunge riffs, the Philadelphia band has made some higher risk choices this time around. Featuring new producers, a heavier metal influence, and spoken word guests, Why Love Now delivers moments of pleasant surprises as well as curious head scratchers. What still resides is Pissed Jeans’ sardonic commentary on a cultural landscape that takes itself much too seriously.
Assisting at the studio helm for Why Love Now is no-wave legend Lydia Lunch, whose nontraditional influence is noticeable from the opening track. “Waiting on My Horrible Warning” wallows in the type of skewered headspace that originated with Lunch’s work with Teenage Jesus and The Jerks. “Back’s thrown out just trying to tie my shoes/ Every day I used to play punk, now I’m just singing the blues” opines frontperson Matt Korvette as the mix wears down to a grimy full stop. Her post-Jerks goth background is heard clearest on “Love Without Emotion”, an eerily faithful yet misfit crossbreeding of Judas Priest and The Sisters of Mercy. For a band that prides itself on taking absolutely nothing seriously, their tackling of a genre that glorifies staid melodrama is at best a middling experiment.
What does pair naturally with Pissed Jeans is the guiding hand of metal recording engineer Arthur Rizk, who doles out a measured balance between slick power chords and the bottom-heavy tendencies of classic grunge. “It’s Your Knees” showcases 90s-era Soundgarden head-banging underneath Korvette’s visceral groans. They are at their pigfuck finest on tracks like “Ignorecam”, stomping through a gutpunch rhythm as their themes aim squarely at the power dynamic of internet porn. “Have You Ever Been Furniture” is a furious taunt in a song title, poking you squarely in the chest with insurgent riffs and beats, smirking as your life choices are summarily questioned.
The convention-breaking comes out best on “I’m A Man”, where vocal duties are taken over by Ugly Girls author Lindsay Hunter. Her spoken-word piece on sexual objectification is a wonderfully uncomfortable satire, as her odd twang adds a sickly twist to the dynamic. Although Pissed Jeans have never delved into the avant-garde, this result is a fresh aesthetic on their sneering ethos. As always for Pissed Jeans, there are no sacred cows on Why Love Now and white male mediocrity is evergreen subject matter for their hardcore skewerings. Their attempts at breaking new ground sonically are encouraging and lay the foundation for a more intriguing future.
Why Love Now is available now.