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Jay Reatard, Singles 06-07 (In The Red)
I’m sure everyone reading this knows at least a couple of people, be they family members, friends or what have you, who are such insane overachievers that we simultaneously love and hate them.
We admire them and we’re oh so proud of everything that they’ve done with their lives and we really do wish them all the best with whatever they decide to do next. We also secretly resent them because, goddammit, they make our lazy asses look bad!
Enter one Mr. Jay Reatard, one of punk’s ultimate workaholics.
Reatard self-recorded and played all of the instruments on every track that makes up this compilation, which covers his solo output from the tail end of 2006 through most of 2007. I know that writing and recording 17 songs over the course of one and a half years doesn’t sound all that impressive even if he did do pretty much everything short of pressing the vinyl by himself, but sit tight and hear me out.
In ‘06 and ‘07, he also did all of this:
He recorded his 2006 solo debut LP, Blood Visions, which he also played all of the instruments on, save the bass and backing vocal tracks on a cover of the Adverts’ “We Who Wait.” He did a one-off collection of electro tracks called World of Shit under the name Terror Visions. He played drums in the Final Solutions, who released their second full length LP in 2007. He played bass for a bit for retro-thrashers Evil Army. And he did all of these things while touring extensively throughout North America and Europe with his solo band.
Still not impressed? Before 2006, Jay Reatard was in three other much-beloved bands: the Reatards, a bunch of filthy garage-dwelling brats, the Angry Angles, a minimalist art punk project with then-girlfriend Alix, and the Lost Sounds, the official new wave band of the coming apocalypse. Between these three bands alone, Reatard wrote for and played on eight full length albums and eighteen singles. And that’s not even counting all of his past one-off projects and collaborations with various denizens Memphis’ rich and varied scene.
Still not impressed? Think about this. Jay Reatard is only 26 years old. He started at 16. He’s only 10 years into his career and he’s already done more than most of the prima donnas in the music game do in 20.
It’s fucking sick. Who the hell does this dude think he is, saturating the market with all of his odds and sods? Indeed, his ubiquity would put me off if it wasn’t for one thing: damn near everything this guy puts out is fucking golden.
He has an incredible knack for firing off catchy tunes that blows right past this cranky bastard’s defenses almost every time. And even though someone who releases material as prolifically as Reatard can’t help but misstep on a few rare occasions, he just keeps getting better and better overall.
This here collection is as good a place as any to start if you’re looking to hop on the Reatard bandwagon. The tunes range from pretty good to absolutely mindblowing and are an excellent representation of this stage of Reatard’s musical development, wherein he spices up an Undertones-like pop sensibility with a dash of Wire-ish experimentalism. (Translated for any non-music nerds: it’s melodic enough to catch your attention and stick in your head but weird and unique enough to hold up to repeat listens.)
The only thing that I can really hold against this slab of wax is that six of these tracks are either rough cuts or alternate takes of songs from the Blood Visions LP (which I give my highest recommendation to, if you haven’t picked it up already). That said, these versions are different enough that it isn’t a huge deal.
So? What are you waiting for? Get off your ass and go get it! And as for you, rest of the punk rock world, why the hell can’t you be more like your brother Jay-Jay, here? Ugh. You kids’ll be the death of me, I swear...
Singles 06-07 gets a rating of one long-overdue demand from an irate father to get your shit out of the basement and get the hell out of his house. You’re 30 years old, for fuck’s sake! Get out there and make something of yourself!
Punk’s Not Dead (DVD), directed by Susan Dynner
Is punk dead? If you have to ask, you’re either not looking hard enough or not looking in the right places.
Susan Dynner, I’m looking in your direction here, so pay attention.
Now, I don’t mean to crap all over the entirety of her exploration of punk culture in a brave new world of MTV airplay, platinum records, festival tours and mall chains. Some parts are fairly entertaining. I enjoyed her depiction of the continuing adventures of still-kicking old timers like the Subhumans, the U.K. Subs and the Adicts, as well as the notable guest appearances by Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, Captain Sensible of the Damned and a handful other guys and gals who were there when it all started.
These people defied odds and aged somewhat gracefully while most of their contemporaries died, quit or turned into embarrassing caricatures. It’s cool to hear their perspective on the way things are going now, rather than having them wax poetic about the past like most of these docs would have them do.
I also enjoyed the parts that centered on modern punk’s Faustian bargain with corporate America, with the old and new schools sparring over topics like the Warped Tour, Hot Topic, mainstream acceptance and what it means to play “real punk rock,” even if the whole debate did sort of degenerate into the old guys kvetching, “Yeeargh! The corporations are just using you to make money!” while the young guys whined, “Nyaaaah! We’re using corporate channels to spread our message to the widest possible audience!” without any deeper exploration as to which side was closer to being correct. But that would probably be a subject that would take up an entire documentary of its own, so I let that slide.
The thing that really turned me off, though, was the barely-there exploration of North America’s underground scene. Yeah, she pays it lip service by throwing in some footage of Echo Park gutter punks drunkenly playing Exploited-lite garbage and vomiting all over themselves and she shows some other pubeless bastards playing crap versions of the same stuff that the old timers were doing back in the ‘70s, but that’s not enough.
Let’s get this perfectly clear: North America’s punk rock underground did not just shit itself and die in the early ‘90s only to be cannibalized by a bunch of jackass kids who look, act and sound like copy/pastes of scans of photocopies of ditto sheets of sketches of Polaroids of overgrown street urchins with 2-foot-tall mohawks playing shitbox pubs in London circa 1982.
The underground is thriving. It’s vibrant. It’s vital. But, unfortunately, no one is going to do the legwork for you if you want to find that out for yourself. Crack open an issue of Razorcake or Skyscraper. Go to some shows. If a band’s name looks interesting, check their website. Ask people what’s cool.
You may run into some uppity “scene guardians” along the way, but remember this, young adventurer: a pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a couple bumps of coke, a good vegan cupcake recipe or a quick jab to the bridge of the nose are all are excellent tools for rendering even the douchiest hipster as docile as a sleepy kitten.
It’s not all suburban posers, crusty homeless kids and Pete Wentz wannabes out there. Trust me. Now, go forth and explore!
Punk’s Not Dead gets a rating of one packet of Knox gelatin and a jar of Manic Panic Deadly Nightshade, the punkest shade of the punkest hair color on the planet.
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