Like clockwork, Pennsylvania skronk-rock band Pissed Jeans released three albums—one every two years—culminating in 2009’s superbly sludgy King Of Jeans. Then the clock broke. Luckily, the outfit’s garbled, self-degraded noise largely transcends such pencil-pushing notions as timeliness or relevance. Honeys, Pissed Jeans’ fourth full-length, is its first since King, and it sounds as archetypally apeshit as its predecessors. The four-year hiatus hasn’t altered the group’s headlong, breakneck arc straight into the shitter. But it does show some wear and tear on a band that always seemed more apt to burn out than fade away.
The disc doesn’t want for belligerence. Pissed Jeans’ primary touchstones—The Jesus Lizard and In Utero-era Nirvana—remain in place. Songs like “Cathouse” and “Loubs,” though, feel exhausted instead of exhausting, even when guitarist Bradley Fry does his most spirited Greg Ginn-circa-My War impersonation. Honeys is Pissed Jeans’ heaviest album to date, but that doesn’t always equate to forcefulness. At its best, the band has always thrown a knotty angularity into the mix, and that’s mostly missing here, in spite of a wealth of blister-peeling anthems like “Bathroom Laughter,” “Romanticize Me,” and the particularly snarl-inducing “Male Gaze.” Even Matt Korvette’s twisted wit feels a little slack compared to past rants about torpor and confusion. When, on “Health Plan,” he paranoiacally screeches, “I stay away from doctors!” it says more about the state of post-Obamacare America than a ream of poli-sci dissertations. But by Korvette standards, it’s kind of tame.
By the time the album’s closer, the plodding and uninspired “Teenage Adult,” rolls around, there’s a palpable sense of sag—and the increase in distortion and volume feels more like overcompensation. Honeys rocks in the perverse way only Pissed Jeans can, and like past releases, it’s a slab of flank steak in an indie world rife with tenderized veal. But with racket-raising upstarts like Sub Pop labelmate Metz on the ascent, Korvette and crew should be stepping up their game, not taking a halftime breather.