23 September 2008

Jay Reatard – Matador Singles ‘08

(2008, Matador)

It has apparently become necessary to mention in each review of Mr. Reatard’s work that he recently punched someone at a gig. I have punched people at gigs, though it is rather less newsworthy due to the fact that I have never composed a song as good as ‘See/Saw’. Or ‘Screaming Hand’. Or ‘Fluorescent Grey’. Or, or…

This is the small detail many appear to overlook. While Jay’s ostensibly ‘controversial’ behaviour is not actually that controversial in the grand scheme of things – witness Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp lamping a punter who stole the cowboy hat Mr. Sharp apparently considered his one possession, or Nick Oliveri taking out the whole of Terrorvision at Ozzfest ’99 – what should be of note is his ability to pen a tune.

Much has been made of his past musical life, of which Lost Sounds – synthy awesomeness – is this writer’s favourite. Even so, it is the present that most stirs excitement and that sets the pulse racing. As a solo performer Reatard has already released numerous fine singles (also recently compiled) as well as an album – Blood Visions – that served as the springboard into internet infamy and gold house bought by his Matador advance, rumoured to be in the Louis Bacon-troubling realm of $350m.

While such an investment may not yield the kind of revenue generated by relatively recent big contract stars such as R.E.M. and Mariah Carey, it is artistic success, that commodity seemingly least valued in this cut-throat world we naïve music fans find ourselves in, that is infinitely more assured.

Eschewing the speed metal influence prevalent in the last eighteen or so years of punk rock evolution, Reatard opts for a more Richard Hell/Wipers, sound, freer-flowing in its guitar techniques than the Epitaph massive (not to say I am not fond of that style; many an hour has been spent appreciating mid-period NOFX and early Millencolin). So, along with the three-chord bombast there are acoustic guitars and a wonderful trend of screaming guitar melody augmenting the rhythm. The lyrics and melodies are simple but effective, doing nothing to distract from the matter at hand. The matter in this case is rocking.

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