Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jay Retard -- Matador Singles '08

Jay Reatard -- Matador Singles ‘08 (Matador)

If you already are a Jay Reatard fan, then this review won’t do much for you. You are probably telling every fellow rock fan you know to check this guy out. If you haven’t been, you should.

That’s what happened to me. A friend raved about him, convincing me to show up early for his appearance at this year’s Pitchfork Festival. What I saw was 30 minutes of primal rock ‘n’ roll, the songs distilled to a piledriving essence, with Flying Vs and bobbing heads. I could only imagine how that would have come off in a hot, sweaty club, with the sound reverberating off of the walls instead of dissipating in the open air.

But I would have never imagined that the same guy who turned a pile of chords into molten lava before my eyes was also capable of hook filled pop in the vein of Buzzcocks, The Undertones, Wire, Guided By Voices and so on and so forth. This CD collects the fruits of six slabs of vinyl (snapped up by savvy collectors) Reatard unleashed this year. The music here is compulsive and catchy, with songs never outstaying their welcome.

Folks, Jay Reatard is a pop master. He knows melodies. He knows percussive hooks. He’s a clever arranger. And there’s a variety of moods and atmospheres on this disc.

The spookiest track is a cover of Deerhunter’s “Flouresecnt Grey”. I am not familiar with the original, but I intend to check it out. In Reatard’s hands, this is a intense psych-garage work out, made all the more menacing by the vocals. Jay sounds like a chip off of Johnny Rotten’s block. Great tune, great performance.

But so much of the genius of Jay Reatard is the zippy pop sense that is imbedded in his tunes. The guy has a bevy of memorable guitar parts and he pens direct lyrics that stick in the head and make the songs extra catchy.

I can’t think of the last time that an artist reminded me of Hilly Michaels, but in the midst of the speedy “Screaming Hand”, he throws in a chorus of “you are my hero/you are my hero” followed by goofy “Oh no no no no no no...” backing vocals. These sound like they came off of Hilly’s classic “Something’s On Your Mind” from the Caddyshack soundtrack.

Reatard gets into some ping-ponging rockabilly Fall meets Pixies on the barely over a minute “DOA”, which throws in a bonus hook that comes out of nowhere. Fans of early Doleful Lions and Guided By Voices should slobber all over “Always Wanting More”, with it’s twee pop backing and majestic guitar line. Then Reatard gets all “nyaah nyaah nyaah” in Buzzcocks fashion in the chorus. And he’s all put downs on the acoustic bouncer “Painted Shut”, which has a great electric guitar break.

Not many people have waxed 13 songs as good this year. Get this disc and as a bonus, you’ll get to see some manboobs.


Chris C. Davis said...

Hear, hear! Jay Reatard's solo career might be my favorite new development in the music world over the past few years. Everything that he does is dripping with awesomeness! Have you ever heard any of his older stuff with The Reatards, Final Solutions, or Lost Sounds? It's all solid too. Not quite at the recent level, but, still worth checking out.

Mike Bennett said...

Chris --

I've got a lot of catching up to do, so thanks for the list of pre-solo stuff I need to find.

Anonymous said...

You and me both, Chris. I'm sure both of you have heard me say this repeatedly, but his solo debut Blood Visions is my favorite album by anyone over the last few years. I love the Matador singles comp as well and also of note is Deerhunter's cover of "Oh It's Such a Shame", which isn't on the singles comp (it was the B-side of single #4). Anyway the In the Red Singles '06-'07 comp is also well worth checking out.

And in addition to the other side projects already mentioned, I can recommend Terror Visions' World of Shit (a ball of sunshine Mr. Reatard is not). It's much more heavy synth/industrial punk than his solo stuff and a lot less melodic (and more aggressive like his live shows), but still worth checking out.

Slack-a-gogo said...

Thanks for the recommendation on this - I ended up picking up this and the previous singles collection. But since I went the emusic download route I'm missing out on his man-boobs.

I'll agree with the Hilly Michaels comparison, but the band that I kept thinking of while listening to this is Jet (the original 70's glam pop band, not the less interesting Jet of recent vintage). I even hear a bit of Radio Stars. To my ears this is an American indie rock version of glam-pop UK bands of the mid/late 70's. He has my favorite formula for music - short, punchy songs with instantly catchy melodies. And of course, a nice garage production sound doesn't hurt any either.