Jay Reatard | Singles 06-07 (In the Red Records)

jayreatard-singles.jpgAs you might expect from a series of tracks recorded in such quick succession, there’s a handful of stumbles along the way, but Singles 06-07 overall proves a solid introduction into Reatard’s wide-ranging arsenal of lo-fi guitar rock.

 

 

 

When you hear the phrase "singles collection," you usually think "greatest hits-type stopgap release during a long gap between albums," right? Not so with the preposterously prolific Jay Reatard, whose collection Singles 06-07 collects 17 tracks from six different singles released on five different labels in the time between Reatard’s last full-length, 2006’s solo debut Blood Visions, and his spat of six 7-inch singles currently being released by Matador. A spat of singles to be collected in September, mind you, just in time for Reatard’s next brand new heavy, due in early 2009. Who is this guy?

I was asking myself the same question: before this puppy landed in my hot little hands, I was completely unfamiliar with this punk rock Robert Pollard or the billion and a half bands he’s been in since releasing his first EP a decade ago (among them, the eponymous Reatards, the Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, Final Solutions, Bad Times, and Terror Visions). As you might expect from a series of tracks recorded in such quick succession, there’s a handful of stumbles along the way, but Singles 06-07 overall proves a solid introduction into Reatard’s wide-ranging arsenal of lo-fi guitar rock.

Opener "Night of Broken Glass" rocks with the aggro fury of At the Drive-In, but Reatard quickly switches gears with "Another Person" (think Wire, only played on a cheap 1960s organ) before downshifting into the acoustic rocker "Another Person." "Feeling Blank Again" channels the jittery punk of Gang of Four, and the utterly fantastic "I Know a Place" sounds like David Bowie fronting the Pixies. Reatard’s only direct tip of the hat to the rock of the past comes from perhaps a surprising source, 1980s alt-pop cult favorites the Go-Betweens on a cover of their semi-obscure "Don’t Let Him Come Back," where his guitar rollicks with a Lou Reed-ian groove.

What makes the chameleon-like genre shifts all the more compelling is that Reatard plays every single instrument on the album (except, he admits, one lone guitar part on one song). His skill with every instrument is impeccable, and the multi-tracked elements synch up as flawlessly as if they were played live by four guys in a room together. Reatard’s stunningly nimble guitar playing deserves extra credit, and his vocals are generally nice in that yelping modern indie rock kind of way, though occasionally the Tennesseean cops a faux British snarl that’s a bit too fake to be fully forgiven.

The middle third of Singles 06-07 bogs down a bit with a few pleasant punk songs that are ably constructed but ultimately unmemorable (especially compared with the opening six-song suckerpunch). Things fortunately pick up toward the end, particularly with the final four tracks, which appeared (in, I assume, slightly altered form) on Blood Visions.

Also included in the package is a 40 minute or so DVD featuring a regrettably awkward radio interview recorded in the Netherlands as well as live footage from three different concerts. The last concert’s sound fidelity is so bad it’s practically unwatchable, but the first two do a good job of fleshing out Reatard’s musical persona. Live, Reatard rockets through the songs at breakneck speed, pausing after each song just long enough to announce the name of the next one before it, too, explodes out of the gate. His guitar playing takes on furious new life in the live setting as well, echoing the blistering intensity of early Greg Ginn. However, with every song amped to 11 and played lightning fast, the whole thing blends together in one big, punky blur, meaning that the CD makes for a much better overall listening experience than the DVD, and also a much better showcase of Reatard’s considerable talents. B+ | Jason Green

 

RIYL: Wire, The Wipers

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply