Jay Reatard - Matador Singles 08

by Al Brown Rating: Release Date:

When it comes to pop music, some people love sprawling multi-textured albums that only reveal their secrets over repeated, studious listens. Me? I love things like this. Jay Reatard's music is, on first listen, about as basic as it gets, and on the second only a little less so. I want to call it pop-punk because it is essentially the most unashamedly poppy punk album I've ever heard; but unfortunately that term was hijacked long ago by idiots. It's got that lo-fi garage thing going on but it's noticeably better crafted; more hook-laden than any self respecting garage rockers would dare to be. Basically it's stupid as hell, but also brilliant: like the Ramones, but not sounding much like the Ramones.

It's those buzzing, vital guitars cutting through the murky bass that really do it for me on 'See/Saw', along with Jay's inimitable vocals: "See-saw!/Back and forth again!/See-saw!/Back and forth again!" It sounds like nothing on paper but on record it's joyous and heartbreaking and inspiring but possibly none of those things, or possibly many more. On 'Screaming Hand' it's easier to pinpoint what makes it so great: there is a little gap with a double-drumbeat between each line which anchors the whole song like those bum-bum! Bum-bum! bits do in 'Blister In The Sun' by Violent Femmes. I could listen to 'Screaming Hand' all day: I think it is one of the most perfect songs in the world, despite being actually quite stupid and written by a man who repeatedly punches people who come to his gigs.

'You Mean Nothing To Me' is another stone-cold classic: a spiralling fairground organ pushes Jay on as he sings "There's a reason I'm afraid of you/And I don't know what it is!". He projects with such purpose that confessions of social inadequacy become triumphant rallying cries: maybe that's why I like him so much. Maybe he has more in common with actual pop-punk bands than I'd care to admit.

The rest of the album contains songs that sound like those mentioned above and a few slower numbers, all of which work to a degree without quite achieving timelessness. It's great fun all the way though; rock'n'roll as it was always meant to be: brash, snotty and brilliant

Best Tracks: 'See/Saw', 'Screaming Hand', 'You Mean Nothing To Me'

Alistair Brown

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