On ‘Why Love Now’’s opener, ‘Waiting On My Horrible Warning’, producer Lydia Lunch coaxes a fantastically hammy vocal from Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette. He snarls and squeals and jabbers over funereal stoner-blues in the manner of Lunch’s old sparring partner Nick Cave at his most blood-and-thunder. However, it is at this point that the circuitry is jammed. Rather than doling out violence ‘Stagger Lee’-style, Korvette in fact lists symptoms of fatal illnesses visited on himself. All your toughness and posturing, he seems to say, can only save you for so long.
Urbane and self-aware, ‘Why Love Now’ is a record that satirises both alpha and beta male masculinities by exploring tensions between the two. After groovy lead single ‘The Bar is Low’, it is on the third track, ‘Ignorecam’, that this begins to be explored in earnest. Korvette here imagines a fetish-cam scenario in which the man pays to be completely ignored. Backed by some classic sludgy hardcore, his yells of “ignore me, just ignore me” don’t come across as the woe-is-me diatribe of a jilted WASP – Pissed Jeans are far too knowing for that. The desired effect is humorous, and they succeed. The phrase is repeated with such force and tunelessness as to become hilarious, and who could ignore this racket anyway?
‘Have You Ever Been Furniture’ turns the power dynamics of ‘Ignorecam’ onto a male addressee. With white men rarely having to justify their seat at the table, he asks the listener if they have ever been somebody’s seat, or an ATM, or if they even know what it’s like to be used at all, before kissing off with a barbed “yeah, it shows”. Elsewhere, the investment that the patriarchy has in free-market capitalism is eloquently skewered. ‘Activia’ takes cues from Gang of Four’s ‘Anthrax’ by seeing corporate jargon impinge on the language of love, and sub-90-second blast of pure sickness ‘Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst’ is a comic riot of newspeak nonsense.
At the core of the album sits ‘I’m A Man’, a song that simultaneously blindsides you and pulls the record together. Musically, it is miles away from the rest of the songs – the instrumental has more in common with a voguing party than a squat show, with strange slabs of noise pasted over a snappy hi-hat pattern. Instead of Korvette up front we get Ugly Girls author Lindsay Hunter, and her piece spears male-gaze erotic fantasy with acerbic ferocity. It is extraordinary, and Pissed Jeans deserve credit for knowing when to step back and allow a female voice to ram home the point that they spend the rest of ‘Why Love Now’ so craftily setting up.