Jay Reatard: Matador Singles ’08

Jay Reatard
Matador Singles '08

Jay Lindsey is the kind of unintellectual rawker that comes along every once in a while to provide the British music press with an American figurehead charged with saving rock and roll. He named himself “Reatard” and dropped out of high school. He’s always getting into scrapes. He’s the kind of guy that could write a song called “Hitler Was a Meglamanic” (sic).

Surrounded by people that wanna watch me fall

But in my mind I will kill them all

Seeing enemy’s dying at my feet

But really I’m just fighting me

A typical post at his blog goes like this:

“Today [bandmate] Stephen has been forced into eating 25 suckers in 8 hours (thats over 1500 calories and over a pound of suckers !)

If he doesnt finish them all we will beat him in the van all day on the way to cmj tomorrow ….If he eats them we are all gonnan pitch in and buy him what ever he wants for dinner….17 suckers down…and he’s about ta puke..will he do it…”

Complete with photos of his bandmate hunched over a rainbow barf-filled toilet.

He also had the audacity (and perhaps naiveté) to call out both B.B. King and Elvis in the same interview. Can we blame him? He grew up in Memphis, where Elvis and B.B. King are about as culturally authentic as Ronald McDonald and Orville Redenbacher. You’d probably loathe the King too if you had to stare at Elvis dinette sets all day. We love him for it. Just look how Jay’s stoner drawl and excessive “maaaan’s” disarm Pitchfork’s pointy-headed Nitsuh Abebe. This guy is the real deal.

The first two videos that show up in YouTube for the search term “Jay Reatard” are “Jay Reatard punching kid at the Silver Dollar” and “Jay Reatard – Kicks a dude in the face in Vegas!“. In both videos, Jay takes the first swing, but he is certainly provoked. There’s something about his simple, doubletime pop punk songs that kicks the adrenaline glands into gear. Think the Misfits’ “Attitude” or “What Do I Get” by the Buzzcocks — clinically proven to make listeners spaz out. Likewise, Jay Reatard’s brand of snot-nosed power trio punk gnashes its teeth and dares listeners to make a move.

Sadly, this compilation showcases Reatard’s worst solo material I’ve heard — 13 average garage punk tracks with their fangs removed. Each song is built around a simple, admittedly catchy hook, sometimes enhanced by synthesizer, acoustic guitar, even mandolin. “See/Saw”, “Always Wanting More” and “You Mean Nothing to Me” are short and sweet, with buzzsaw guitar riffs and perfectly bratty vocals. The best tracks on the album, they’re catchy enough, but nothing you’ll get stuck in your head.

The entire record is more restrained than his previous work, but the last few tracks are especially plodding, subdued ballads. I give wide latitude to stupid lyrics and dead simple songwriting, but at least give it some energy. Unless Phil Spector is at your soundboard, you have no business writing “Danny Says”.

Reatard has released over 30 singles in the last five years, writing songs for eight different bands. His prolificacy is probably his tragic flaw, as this compilation showcases some great ideas which were never allowed to germinate. Nearly half of these songs are B-sides, so I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Yet, if this collection is any indication of where Jay Reatard is headed, expect major critic backpedaling — Black Kids-style.

RATING 5 / 10