A lot of people, including the band themselves, refer to Mean Jeans as a dumb band, something that I strongly disagree with. After seeing them live three years ago (you’re welcome to look up my typo-ridden review from back then) I started to gain a very serious appreciation for them, as they showed an impressive amount of talent and also a great amount of wit and quick thinking, which made for one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. While their music certainly strives for a “dumb” aesthetic, there’s a certain amount of cleverness required to make yourself sound intentionally dumb. Last year when they released their Jingles Collection, John G. wrote a great review about the album’s pro-corporate nature is somehow paradoxically the perfect artistic statement. Similarly, Mean Jeans are often written off because they’re pretty obviously an intentional Ramones rip-off, right down to the fact that frontman Billy Jeans’s singing style is basically a Joey Ramone impression. But I would argue that Mean Jeans is not so much a rip-off of The Ramones as much as they’re a post-modern pastiche of The Ramones and a reinterpretation of The Ramones’ style for the 21st century. Their new album, Gigantic Sike, continues the band’s great tradition of faux-stupidity, party anthems, and Ramones-esque bangers.The opening track and first single is called “Party Line” and is basically about a party-based hotline. In the song, Billy Jeans actually sings a phone number in one of the verses. The lyric sheet that Fat Wreck sent us has the last four digits of the phone number redacted, but I was pretty sure I heard the number correctly in the song, so I tried calling it. I expected to be directed to a recording of some sort. Instead, a man’s voice answered and said “Hello?” so I panicked and hung up. Then I tried texting it and got caught up in the single funniest text message conversation of my life, the highlight of which was when I was sent a video of frontman Billy Jeans in huge sunglasses and a Wayne’s World cap jamming out to “One More Time” by Daft Punk. That’s right, the band put an actual working phone number into one of their songs and actually answer when you contact them! Who does that? Comic geniuses, that’s who!
There’s a lot of imagination that goes into this album, as there’s a mild science-fiction theme running through the album. “Basement Animal” is told from the point of view of an animal that is the result of a failed science experiment that is locked away from society forever. “Turning Green” is from the point of view of someone whose skin is literally turning green and who is trying to figure out why. “Time Warp,” which I was very disappointed to find was not a cover of the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show, is about wanting to start over after a breakup, but is also literally about wanting to travel through time. Add in the bizarre “I Fell into a Bog,” which is both literally about falling into a bog but also about falling in love with someone you shouldn’t, and the album’s lighthearted sci-fi/fantasy elements make it sound like if The Ramones made a Goosebumps themed album. Another one of my favorites is “What the Fuck is Up Tonight?” in which Billy Jeans talks about all his plans to get his life together and actually achieve something with his life, but how in the immediate present he wants to go out for the night and party, a song I can definitely relate to.
So I challenge you to cast off your notions of Mean Jeans as a “dumb” band and explore the sharp wit, the imagination, and startling creativity that makes up a record like Gigantic Sike. Sure there’s a strong Ramones influence, but there’s also a vibrant originality to this band that surpasses anything you would hear from the actual Ramones. This is Ramones’ style greatly evolved by three excellent musicians who have found a new and original way to pay tribute to their idols. There’s absolutely nothing “dumb” about Mean Jeans.