GOING BALD WITH PISSED JEANS
Nov 11, 2009, 06:14
Bradley Field is a happily married man who recently purchased a home. He has a small, adorable dog that is featured on the insert of Hope For Men wearing a sweater. Brad's a shutterbug—he likes taking weekend trips to somewhere woodsy and taking photos. He has a corporate job, and he used to purchase a lot of rare punk singles—especially Australian—but buying a house has put that on hold. A few times a month he drives an hour and half each way to practice with Pissed Jeans. As a guitar player, he's fierce, unleashing big distorted rolling clouds and delayed leads that slither around the monolithic rhythm section. When he recently played at the Troubadour he had two amps, extra speaker cabinets, a multi-effects unit, and a Fender reverb tank. He's not the typical guitar monster, no yards of leather or artfully torn clothing over a junkie's frame—he's got a pleasant demeanor; He'd make an ideal neighbor. He used to wrestle. His character was an evil businessman.
Randy Huth played guitar in the band Pearls and Brass, before they went on hiatus and he was asked to play bass in Pissed Jeans. Two years ago Randy released the Randall of Nazareth record, a solo release, where Randy sang over his own graceful acoustic guitar playing. Bluesy in a way more John Fahey than R.L. Burnside, the LP is filled with deceptively complicated, yet totally un-showy guitar playing and folkie sincere vocals that work in the way most records don't. Randy is just one of those guys who radiate quiet confidence. If you were in a war, and Randy asked to grab your rifle and to run up a hill to draw enemy fire, you'd do it.
Sean replaced Pissed Jeans' original drummer, who remains friendly with the current lineup. The word that comes up alongside Sean's name most often is "affable," which is totally accurate. If your car broke down in a nasty neighborhood and he pulled up to help, you'd be immediately at ease. You'd be happy when he arrived at your party. He's a great drummer. He hits 'em hard, keeps everything tasteful. You get the feeling he could unleash some drum fills that would set a chin stroking drum fan all a-twitter, but, to his credit, he doesn't. When the rest of the band flew out for a west coast tour, Sean was happy leaving a few days early and driving from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in the van with four amps, extra speaker cabinets, a drum set, two girls, and a tent.
Matthew Korvette lives with his fiancÃ© in a nice, metropolitan Philadelphia neighborhood. His apartment is tastefully decorated and extremely clean. I admire people who can keep their domicile so spotless and well-organized, if only because my apartment always looks like it just hosted a toga party for a railcar full of particularly negligent hobos. Recently Matt self-released an electronic record, the Right Thant single, on his own White Denim label. A few days ago I accompanied Matthew to Amoeba records in LA, where, after walking through the front door, Matt made a bee-line for the electronica section. He likes the music and the musicians, but he seems to have an almost anthropologic fascination with the genre. The way songs are considered irrelevant weeks after they're released, how many of the releases are in plain sleeves with next to no indication of the artist, or that sometimes you'll get an LP only to find the same song on each side. All of this appeals to Matthew, an inveterate collector. It's not that he is soley interested in electronica, I spent a day or two with Matt and he waxed enthusiastic about the Bushwick Bill solo albums, Croatian maniacs, SexA, the currently bi-coastal outfit FNU Ronnies, Daryl Duke's film The Silent Partner, and cartoonist Joe Matt.
Their new LP was recorded in New York by Grammy winner Alex Newport, and it keeps with the general Pissed Jeans formula: a testosterone-addled set of influences and aggressive sludge... But instead of songs about how much they hate Reagan, they are about mundane everyday subjects, with an emphasis on male insecurity. I told Matt that I find Pissed Jeans to be a very, humorous band and that it is refreshing to hear something that sounds like it does—it doesn't sound like say, King Missile—and lyrically isn't about kicking ass or pounding whiskey. "Yeah," Matt replies, "especially since I don't do either." You see, Matt and Brad both have uptight, corporate jobs, so Matt sings about what he knows.
The new LP, King Of Jeans—is named after a store of the same name in Philadelphia. The store's got an eye-catching sign: a shirtless man in denim leaning over to lay a smooch on a crouching girl in what appears to be the unconventional ensemble of a leather bikini and heels, with the 'OF' in 'KING OF JEANS' superimposed over a crown. The new record is the most accessible Pissed Jeans have released so far. Gone are the more polarizing songs on Hope For Men—there's no "Scrapbooking" or "The Jogger," and even though three of the songs are four minutes or longer, it feels more concise then their last LP.
"Goodbye (Hair)" might be Pissed Jean's masterpiece. It might not bring the rock to the extent that "Ashamed of my Cum" or "False Jesii, Part 2", or have the beautiful simplicity of "Boring Girls," but it is right up Pissed Jean's alley, the everyday, often-ignored pain of loosing your hair. Receding hairlines are not a popular lyrical topic, and over the relentless slog, Korvette runs through self-pity and flagellation with a rare honesty. What makes the song even funnier is that you can barely tell Matt is having problems with his hairline but you wouldn't know there was an issue until he wrote a song about it that was released as an LP on Sub Pop. To see how accurately the song expressed emotional turmoil, I decided to talk to a friend of mine—a bald friend.Stoney has a dad who is as bald as an egg. At age 16, Stoney, with a full head of hair, confronted his dad about genetics. "I won't go bald, Dad," he said, to his hairless father. Stoney continued with youthful optimism, "the baldness gene comes from the Mother's side." His Dad looked at his son and ominously responded "we'll see." One year later, Stoney started noticing hairs on his pillow, and went through the traumatic experience of going bald during the already harrowing teenage stage of development.
Stoney went though all five stages of the KÃ¼bler-Ross model of grief. Denial ("I would comb my hand through my hair, and see hairs, and either say 'I'm just shedding like a normal seventeen year old', or I would say to myself 'think about this later,' and put the thoughts down deep inside."), followed by anger (Stoney was angry at his dad, angry at his girlfriend, and angry at people "with hair". "I turned 21 and I just though, great, I look like I am fucking 31."), bargaining (a deal with God: his soul if he could have hair until he was 30, after which, bald and in his 30s, he "might as well be dead"), inevitable depression ("Up until that point, my life was going pretty well," Was your parents divorce worse then going bald? "Well, that sucked, but I was like, five.") and finally acceptance ("I never knew what to do with my hair anyway," he told me. His main regret is that "I never had a good haircut," you can hear the resignation in his voice, but it lacks bitterness, "I would have liked just one good haircut.") I played the song for Stoney who is bald as the surface of the moon and has broad musical tastes. He enjoys reggae and hip-hop as well as the type of outrÃ© rock music favored by the typical Your Flesh reader. He's a fan of Kool Keith, thinks the Country Teasers are the best thing going, and saw Van Morrison preform Astral Weeks last year. Musically, he liked "Goodbye (Hair)". He laughed when he heard it. Not at it, mind you.
I asked Stoney if he felt any sense of solidarity with the emotions expressed in the song "I absolutely felt solidarity," he quickly replied. Were the feelings accurate? "Yes, totally." If you were a teenager, going bald, would you have been comforted by the song? "Yeah, it does in the way that listening to music that speaks to how shitty your experience is." What more can you ask from a three-minute tune, and what else can you ask from a band?
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