Jay Reatard Matador Singles ’08

[Matador; 2008]

Styles: garage punk,, garage singer/songwriter
Others: The Dead Milkmen, The (International) Noise Conspiracy

Somewhere under every musician’s bed is a shoebox full of songs they wrote in high school. Giddy, brief, and locked in rhyme, each revealing a single emotion from a single afternoon. Jay Reatard’s new compilation Matador Singles ‘08 sees the best of his notebooks ripped out, rebound, and offered up. Ballooning with naïve gusto, he resists the urge to sand down the rough edges with afterthought production. While the frenetic pace may induce exhaustion by the end of the album, Reatard never stops bouncing.

The seams stitched between Reatard’s Matador singles are clearly audible. Two songs of tight indie bravado, two sloppy experimental garage rockers, and two whimsical twee sing-a-longs. None sound completely out of character though, except the drudgingly repetitive cover of Deerhoof’s “Fluorescent Grey.” Reatard’s omnipresent howl and guitar distortion tie together the separate releases, but also grow tedious when stacked 13 songs deep. A more holistic or conversely haphazard approach to tracklisting might have yielded a more sustainable listening experience, so don’t be afraid to hit shuffle.

Reatard seems most comfortable when he's the guitar slinger. Furiously strumming like he’s loving his first calluses, “See/Saw” demands he and his girl make up their minds at 180 bpm. Mixing fuzzed-up chord avalanches with clean and sturdy synth beeps, Reatard finds the recipe for nostalgia on “Screaming Hand” -- “Tried my best/ To still have fun/ Cowboys and Indians/ Mudpies and cap guns”} -- though he knows different things excite him now. Copying a piercing melody from over The Strokes’ shoulder, “Always Wanting More” uses crescendo and heaps of riffage to propel two of his most palatable minutes to date.

Matador Singles ’08 hits a slump when Reatard tries to gimp an era he’s too young to remember. The unapologetic carnie whirl of “Dead On Arrival” and the glue-sniffing pogo of “Hiding In My Hole” seem like schlock, Reatard trying to shake out some aggressive urges. Cleansed, though, he finishes the album with three songs that see him at his most vulnerable. Trading the snarl for a crooner’s smile, Reatard lazily surveys his bruised body for “No Time” and snuggles into the dreamy hum of “You Were Sleeping.” Finally coming to rest, he displays vast potential in the Wayne Coyne-ian “I’m Watching You,” using the kick drum’s leave of absence to show he can in fact sit still and just sing.

Jay Reatard conveys his dedication and exuberance alongside his fickle immaturity on Matador Singles ’08. It’s spastic and unpredictable, but the simple jingles grow on you. How his songwriting will weather age and relative fame remains to be seen, but for now he sounds as authentic as the impulsive youth. This album won’t quite win Reatard the school talent show, but the kids in the back row should certainly take notice.

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