Mean Jeans

On Mars

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The cover to On Mars, the second album from Portland party-punks Mean Jeans, features a cartoon of the guys flying through the cosmos in a spaceship made from a bottle of Jagermeister, while passing through clouds of macaroni en route to the red planet. Add song titles like "Total Yo-Yo," "I'm a Pile," "School Lunch Victim," and "Don't Stop Partying," and you'd get the not inaccurate idea that this band doesn't take much seriously (besides getting wasted). But one spin of On Mars makes clear that there's one thing these guys hold sacred -- the Ramones. Thousands of bands have tried to follow the template of the brothers from Forest Hills, but Mean Jeans not only bash their guitars and write hooky but skeletal melodies much like the Ramones, lead singer Billy Jeans even tries to replicate the Noo Yawk twang of Joey Ramone's vocals (with various degrees of success), while drummer Jeans Wilder occasionally makes with scrappy harmony vocals not unlike Dee Dee. Billy Jeans lacks Johnny's skills as a guitarist, and has to use various bits of trash rock riffage to compensate for the fact that he can't downstroke with the relentless force of his role model. It's also obvious that while the Ramones could sound sincere while pouring out stuff like this when they felt like it, Mean Jeans wouldn't know sincerity if they ended up spending the night with it after sharing an eight ball backstage. This band's commitment to concept is strong, and these songs are written and performed with enough skill to suggest that, like the Ramones, they're actually pretty smart and have a genuine gift for playing dumb. If Mean Jeans had any goals besides rocking out and convincing us they're raving burnouts, who knows what they might accomplish; as it is, On Mars is good fun, but not so good that you can ignore the empty feeling you get when it's all over.

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