Mean Jeans - Singles (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Mean Jeans

Singles (2015)

Dirtnap Records

It's been just about three years since Mean Jeans released their second full-length, On Mars. Since then, they've released a few splits with bands like Underground Railroad to Candyland and Big Eyes, and in the process, have shown off a glossier sound as compared the rawness of their early works. Singles jumps in the Delorean and travels back to the band's inception, kicking off a chronological journey through tracks released on 7-inches, compilations and in other, not-so-easily-available forms, leading up to their most recent output. As with any singles collection, there's a bit of filler, but across the album's 20 tracks, there are plenty of ragers, and as a whole the collection illustrates the band's evolution from the raw, Ramones-influenced early days to the polished power-pop-punk machine of the present.

The collection opens with the four tracks from the Stoned 2 The Bone 7-inch, the band's very first release. The guitar is raw, the vocals muffled and production pretty much non-existent, but that doesn't take away from the songs, and in fact in some ways adds to their appeal. Fans of the band's first record will find a lot to like here.

The next set of tracks features the same raw sound, and is also where you'll hear some of the band's obvious influences shine through. The songs are in many ways reminiscent of the best years of bands like Screeching Weasel and The Queers, when they were putting out catchy, clever pop-punk that wasn't overshadowed by their respective leaders' questionable behavior.

Further along, it's easy to hear the band developing into the Mean Jeans of today. Tracks like "Possessed To Party" and "Terminally Twisted," both from the Toys That Kill split, are more complex and layered, but still capture the same spirit of the band's earlier work. "I Miss Outerspace," from the Big Eyes split, stands out here as arguably the collection's best song.

In tracing the history of the band, there's also room for a new novelties. "Gonerfest Theme" is weird, and yet so perfectly captures what Goner Records' annual festival is all about that it more than merits inclusion here. The same goes for closing track "Keystone Light," which puts the listener into the shoes of someone in the unenviable position of having to decide which cheap swill will get them drunk tonight.

There is, however, one track missing from the collection. "Bad Dreams," the band's excellent contribution to 2012's The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore compilation fails to make an appearance, which is surprising as this seems to be the perfect avenue to get that song into the ears of hardcore Mean Jeans fans who may have missed it the first time around. That is, however, a small complaint, as Singles is otherwise chock full of worthy tracks that will certainly keep fans busy until the next record drops.