Friday, 12 December 2008

Jay Reatard – Matador Singles 08

Although not on the same level as Dylans electric Judaic betrayal, Jay Reatards musical progression on Matador Singles 08 has been met with a din of discontent by a selection of fans still content with him smashing out his manic Memphis spazzed-out punk. You know, that same spazzed-out punk Reatards relentlessly fired out since the age of 15.

Now 28, Lyndsey (real surname), has used ‘Matador Singles 08’ to showcase his new direction of musical evolution and venture into the shiny world of pop. Presumably staking a claim as the long lost protégé of Berlin Bowie as he does it.

In some quarters it’s been described as wimpish-twee and a sacrilegious act against the punk ethics of which Reatard has abided to for many years. In others it’s been hailed as Jay Reatard’s coming of age and a record that’s both brave and entirely inspiring.

The album is, in itself, a brave concept that from beginning to end is devoid of all convention. Comprised of six singles, B-sides in tow, and a cover of Deerhunter’s ‘Fluorescent Grey’, ‘Singles 08’ not once follows the conventional path of a purposely made album.

Instead of a subject matter unravelling as each song passes, it unequivocally documents the rise and growth of an artist in transition. All the singles featured are the six released in the short space of 6 months by Matador and feature on the album in the same order they featured in your local record shop. Or, in true Jay Reatard fashion, on Ebay for extortionate sums.

Much in the same vein as ‘Singles 06’, ‘See Saw’ and ‘Screaming Hand’ explode out the traps and ensures ‘Singles 08’ comes on like an extension of its older, more dangerous brother .As does, rather disappointingly, ‘An Ugly Death’. A track only memorable for its nerve shredding repetitive lyrical delivery ‘For you, for me, for all to seeeee’. Shudder.
Its heartening then that ‘Always Wanting More’ shows the first sign of Reatard rearing his pop head before next track ‘You mean nothing to me’ indicates said evolution with a bewildering blend of pure pop sensibility that rides a wave of punk undertones, ultimately providing the record with its foundation to manoeuvre it’s way between the genres; punk, pop-punk, pop and twee-pop. Phew.

Portrayed with a pinch of paranoia and teeming with tribal, trance-like drums ‘Fluorescent Grey’ marks the albums middle ground and acts as somewhat of an interlude. Written by Reatard’s buddies and fellow compatriots Deerhunter, the fourth single of six, serves as a departure from the first three by clocking in at 4 minutes and 40 seconds. A mere marathon compared to previous efforts, and an expedition compared to ‘Trapped Here’, ‘Hiding Hole’ and ‘DOA’ (Dead on Arrival). The blistering salvo to the second half of '08 Singles’.

At just over five minutes combined and complete with fuzzy, fraught and unrelenting venomous riffs the trio come on like the Reatard of old and allow for a moment to reminisce of a time when bashing out Ramone style punk-nuggets was all we expected from the man from Memphis. Now of course its nuggets of a pop variety we want and right on cue they’re perfectly formed in what’s arguably the strongest indication of Reatard’s growth as a pop-star in the making.

Heartbreaking, intimate and painfully revealing, ‘No Time’ unravels the hardship of being on the road and out of love. “It seems I never have the time to make my mind feel fine. Just locked inside this glass box looking out the window for you”. Set to the backdrop of an acoustic guitar it’s a heart on the sleeve moment that, while taking time to adjust too, will melt the hearts of new and old fans alike.

As will the twee tinged ‘You Were Sleeping’ a continuation of acoustic Reatard and as Bowie as we knew he could be. ‘I’m Watching You’ an ode to New Zealand songsmiths The Tall Dwarfs effortlessly rounds off the album in entwining, melodic style whilst slipping in the word “C***” to remind us all that yes he may have evolved into a pop star but he’s still a hooligan at heart. A sweet and tender one at that mind.

Daniel Wade

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