Jingles CollectionFat Wreck Chords
By Cole Faulkner
Oregon-based garage act Mean Jeans is known for its scrappy, fun loving Ramones-inspired pop-punk. In the band’s first ten years of activity they released three full lengths and a handful of singles and EPs, and then signed on with Fat Wreck Chords for their third album, Tight New Dimension. The album notably “tightened” the band’s musicianship, and allowed the band to enter their second decade on the top of their game. How does a band on an upward trajectory follow up with their fourth full length? With a twenty-three mico-song collection themed and inspired by American commercial and advertising culture entitled, Jingles.
If you’re like me, you might think Applebees, Pop-Rocks and Mountain Dew would not be the most intuitive topics around which to build an album, but hey, I guess that’s why I’m not a musician. Heck, if They Might Be Giants can build a career around comedy and short-songed farce albums, then it’s really not out of the realm of possibility for Mean Jeans to do something similar as a one-off.
Despite the hefty track listing, the album clocks in at a slim twenty-one minutes, with each track ranging from a miniscule thirteen seconds, to a meatier minute forty-five. The result is a collection of short, punchy hooks that stick around just long enough to lay down an ear-worm, and then it’s off to the next product. Generally, the catchy little ditties come in one of two forms: short and to the point, or they use their 90 second runtime to build enthusiasm for the product. Take “Rain-X Wiper Blades,” or “Totinos,” which cover little more than longing for a streak free windshield shine or a bubbling frozen party pizza cooking in the oven. They’re both minimalist and extremely catchy while still making over the top promises for otherwise middling products.
The same bodes true for the lengthier tracks, with those like “1-800-69-SHRED” totally selling me on where I’m heading the next time I need to dispose of office documents, or telling me the merits of spending my hard earned wages at a “Best Western.” Meanwhile, “Kraft Mac & Cheese” drives home my already strong belief that there is no substitute for KD, while “Taco Bell” trumpets the merits of hitting up everyone’s favourite fast food hot spot during the wee hours of the night. Stylistically, the tracks are fairly consistent in their simplicity, but “Dunkaroos” does a fine job of standing out from the pack with a purpose. The now defunct snack ceased production in the USA back in 2012 due to changing child advertising laws, and only remains available in Canada. The track takes an almost emo-esque feel to the tragic loss, and lays down an acoustic lament, reminiscing how the band “never had as much fun with food.” On the other side of the spectrum there’s “The Footlong Song,” which throws in a little twang for good measure as the band sings of their love for an unspecified sandwich shop.
My only caution? be careful – listen to Jingles just once and you’re bound to get multiple products bouncing around in your head. Much like the products they promote, the tracks are addictive. Jingles isn’t likely the type of album you’ll be listening to in a year from now in regular rotation, but it will likely earn its place as a go to for something a little less serious. It’s the type of album you can snicker about on your own, or have a good time annoying your friend with in the car. Despite the trivial content, Mean Jeans’ musicianship makes Jingles a wholly enjoyable diversion.