Jay Reatard, Matador Singles ’08 (Matador Records, 2008)
Over the course of the year, Memphis’ fuzz-punk purveyor Jay Reatard has been something of an indie-tabloid fire starter. Last April, at a typically wild gig in Toronto, Reatard punched a “fan” directly in the face, after said fan spilled beer all over Jay’s beloved effects pedals. At this Summer’s past Pitchfork Music Festival, Reatard joined King Khan and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox for an impromptu set (thrown together while awaiting the arrival of Cut Copy). However, instead of thrashing away at his trusty Flying V guitar, Reatard was instead seen screaming nonsense into the microphone and eventually sticking a flower up his ass — birthing the appropriately named supergroup “Buttflower” in the process. And just recently, in an interview accompanying a blistering 3-song set for AOL’s The Interface, Reatard claimed that he felt no connection to the current political climate, and that he spends too much time in other countries to even care (at one point even saying, “Obama your momma”). Apparently, disenchantment is the new Obama t-shirt.
Anyway, whether or not we condone these types of behaviors is somewhat secondary to how much we have fallen in love with the hyperized pop/punk that Reatard has now become almost legendary for producing. Like a Buzzcocks-obsessed version of Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard, Reatard’s prolific nature has led him to release countless albums and singles over the years, with outfits like the Reatards, Lost Sounds, Final Solutions, as well as under his own name — most notably the 15-song onslaught that is 2006’s Blood Visions. This past summer, In The Red Records released Singles 06-07, a sort of retrospective housing Jay’s 7″ chunks of wax released over those same years. Running from garage-y punk to out-and-out jangle-pop, the album was not only a great introduction to the Reatard, but the first indication that the guy was capable of more than appropriating a spot-on British accent. In turn, the collection hinted at the possibility that the sound of future releases might be a bit harder to pin down.
The reception and quality of both releases also got him signed to Matador Records (longtime home to Guided by Voices, oddly enough). With the indie giant now behind him, Reatard was given the green light to continue his obsessive habit of releasing 7″ singles, and before year’s end, six of them existed on record store shelves and with online retailers alike. Keeping in mind the current climate of the record industry, though — and the fact that, “Hey! Nobody buys music anymore!” — the fact that Matador would get behind such an idea in the first place only seems to promote Reatard’s viability as a songwriter, and not some silly punk kid from the South with too much time on his hands.
But with all things hair-brained and risky, the reason to do it really comes down to simplicity: in this case, for lack of a more intelligent descriptor, the songs contained on Matador Singles ’08 (the collected version of the aforementioned Matador singles) are good as fuck. Lo-fi, yet hardly crude, quick in pace, but nowhere near forgettable, Reatard continues to prove that he’s on a roll, perhaps rejuvenated by the signing to a new label and his new-found status as punk’s next savior. Touching on everything from Superchunk-esque indie punk (“See/Saw”), caffeinated acoustic pop (“Screaming Hand,” “No Time,” “You Were Sleeping”), to organ-laced sock-hop jams (“You Mean Nothing To Me”) and Wire-ish reverberated art-punk (“Trapped Here,” “Dead On Arrival”), Reatard manages to nod to everyone from ? And the Mysterians, Supergrass, and Buddy Holly, to kiwi-popsters like the Go-Betweens and the Bats — even throwing in a paranoid cover of Deerhunter’s excellent “Fluorescent Grey” for a welcome curveball.
So whether or not Reatard’s public persona is growing continuously viral, with Matador Singles ’08, there’s no question that his music is continuing to be increasingly vital — and we can’t wait to hear what comes next. Hopefully Buttflower makes an apperance. — Ryan Allen
Jay Reatard plays the Magic Stick w/ Cola Freaks & Terrible Twos on 10/15.