For those who really want to know what Jay Reatard was like as a youngster, this deluxe reissue of his early album Teenage Hate — plus the tracks off the The Reatards and the Fuck Elvis, Here’s The Reatards cassettes (which features drumming from Greg Cartwright of the Oblivians and Reigning Sound) — is an awesome introduction to a man who sadly mellowed over time. More critics jumped on his jock when he cleaned up his act a little and started to do synth-punk and power-pop — but people like that shouldn’t be listened to. This is one snarling, nasty, trashy and angry beast of a record, which is probably one of the best garage punk releases of its era. While a lot of people were gushing over Watch Me Fall, this was the record that should have been held up as cementing his legacy among the trash rock glitterati.
Still, you can hear the sharp songwriting that he would polish on his later releases, underneath all the sturm and drang here, which just makes me wonder if boring is becoming the new popular sound in indie music. It seems like too many albums these days are way too mellow and polite — and that the only way to get some success or high critical praise is to clean up your act play that game. Thankfully, this record doesn’t, and it’s great because of it. Maybe Jay realized that was the only way to get out of the punk rock ghetto, because with the exception of Fucked Up, it doesn’t seem like Matador signs bands like Unsane or Guitar Wolf anymore.
This record is definitely worth your time and money. It’s a great reminder of how wonderful howling, primal garage punk can be. And it also shows how far Jay Reatard went before his tragic death, for all the good and bad that entails. It’s up to you to make your own decision on that matter.
(Goner Records, 2152 Young Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104)