Jay Reatard: Singles 06-07

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Jay Reatard: Singles 06-07

With a devilish smirk between his cheeks and a bouquet full of wilted relationships to fuel his songwriting,

Jay Reatard has lurked in the grimiest shadows of the rock underground for almost a decade now. When the blogs caught on to his game, however, they didn’t let go, launching young Reatard into C-level indie fame and a deal with Matador Records. Now that he’s on the cusp of his great leap forward, Reatard’s old label In The Red Records is giving new fans a peek back into his recent past. Singles 06-07 provides a portrait of the artist as a young punk, as he begins to rein in his abilities and hone his wild showmanship.

Appropriately enough, the compilation kicks off with the sound of shattering glass. “Night of Broken Glass” builds an intimidating drone before blasting off into a thrashing chorus. Reatard may just be referencing an incident in his native Memphis, but the stakes couldn’t sound any higher when he howls, “I don’t want to go back there!”

The song lays the promise for a collection of blunt punk aggression, but the following tracks quickly flip the script. “Another Person” rides a hilariously chintzy keyboard to lo-fi glory, while “All Over Again” and “Don’t Let Him Come Back” (the latter a Go-Betweens cover) reveal a songwriter just as concerned with sticky-sweet melodies as he is with brute force. Reatard may stick to a strict diet of three to four chords per song, but unlike many punk burnouts, he actually cares which chords he chooses.

With faux-British accent ever in tow, Reatard notches off his romantic grudges one by one. His lyrics contain spiteful gems by the dozen, perhaps none better than, “I’m just killing time instead of killing you,” delivered in a goblin’s shriek on “It’s So Useless.” Kiss offs have never sounded quite so deranged, and one can only hope that the guy has since found a steady relationship to ease his damaged psyche.

Then again, a content Reatard would probably deprive the world of one of its great new-punk champions. In the year or so since most of these songs were recorded, Reatard has shown that his talent is ready to buck all of its restraints. He has already reinvented one of the tracks compiled here (“Searching For You”), speeding it up from a plodding ballad into a fist-pumping anthem entitled “Nightmares.” Now with the full support of a venerable indie imprint like Matador, Reatard stands prepared to finally achieve a grand breakthrough. This collection serves as a wonderful introduction to his fiery brand of madness, and will find a loving home with any devoted punk aficionado.

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