There are 1-2-3-4,000 bands that sound just like the Ramones, and 99 percent of them are interchangeable and unremarkable.
So why is Portland, Ore., trio Mean Jeans part of the 1 percent that makes an impossibly rudimentary, decades-old formula sound as fresh and fun as ever?
(Courtesy of Dirtnap Records) - Cover art for Mean Jeans’ album “On Mars”
The first reason is a relentlessness that runs through “On Mars,” the band’s blast of a new album. In concert, the Ramones were known for charging from one song into another, only pausing long enough for Dee Dee to count the next one off. Mean Jeans transfer this idea to record, not coming up for air until after zipping through five frenzied songs of punk-rock-power-pop mayhem. “Ready 2 Rip” pogos directly into “Life on Mars,” which surges into “Hangin’ Tuff,” a blur of hooks, slogans and key-changing, singalong choruses.
Mean Jeans have also perfected the art of taking stupid music seriously. “My mom forgot to pack my lunch, why is she so dumb? / Now I’m just another school lunch victim,” goes one particularly memorable line sung by Billy Jeans. (They’ve got the dumb names down, too — the other members are Jeans Wilder and Freak Daniels.) A more representative refrain goes, “We’ve had enough / You can keep your crummy stuff / And we’ll be right here hangin’ tough,” and that’s not even the song with “crummy” in its title.
“Don’t Stop Partying” is another tune that could serve as the band’s rallying cry, and its slightly slowed-down tempo shows off the band’s more melodic side and even hints at a sentimental streak. Mean Jeans is undoubtedly a party band, but that’s usually a backhanded compliment dished out to acts that only sounds good when the beer is flowing and bodies are sweating. Mean Jeans is a band worth taking home with you.
— David Malitz
“Ready 2 Rip,” “Hangin’ Tuff,” “School Lunch Victim”