Album Review: Jay Reatard – Matador Singles

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There is nothing reatarded, pardon the pun, about Jay Lindsey, a.k.a. Jay Reatard. This Memphis, Tennessee native has been on a rock and roll rampage since the tender age of 15, and for the past ten years he has managed to release an uncanny amount of material, be it with his first couple bands, or one of the several other side projects he is known for. But when it comes to being just Jay, the list is shorter. Thanks to the October release of Matador Singles, the complete collection of the singles and EP’s he has been releasing under the indie label over the last year,  the 28-year-old has finally unveiled what can be considered his long-awaited second full-length solo effort.

Anyone familiar with Lindsey’s work knows that he is the reining king of new millennium garage rock, perfecting the distorted, low-fi sound for a new generation. As exemplified on Matador Singles, each of the album’s 13 songs manage to blend this sloppy punk style with focused lyrics and elements of surprise that show Lindsey’s songwriting muscle. For a style that can be so monotonous, Lindsey from multiple sources of influence, some well outside of this box. “Screaming Hand”, the records second track manages to infuse classic pop-rock techniques, with his dark lyrics seeming to loosely reference an abusive father figure in his youth. “Painted Shut” pulls from classic country as the personal lyrics continue to be both blunt and poetic while moving ahead at a bullet like pace with moments of Sonic Youth. Listening to Lindsey, in any of his incarnations, is a marathon, and to fully grasp just one of his records you have to stop and catch your breath every once in a while before moving on.

“An Ugly Death” ventures into New Pornographers territory with a delightful keys section, further expanding what we once called stripped down. Surfer influences come through as well making this one of the more fun, and catchy songs to listen to from the record. This theme carries on into “Always Wanting More” with layered guitar parts, pulling about as rich of a sound that is possible from the lo-fi recording process. Daddy issues seem to be a recurring theme for Lindsey, or maybe it is a battle with the many people that have screwed him over in life. “You Mean Nothing To Me” is about as blunt as lyrics can get as he sings “I care nothing for you” over an over again.

At the midway point of the album, Lindsey ditches the catchy rock formula for a set of tracks that provide some of the more interesting songs from his catalogue. “Trapped Here” is a creepy kidnappers anthem as he threatens, “You’ve got nowhere to hide, and you’ve got everywhere to die”. The textures change slightly in the percussions with early goth inspired guitars to set the mood. This is followed by an old-school hardcore blitzkrieg with minute long head bangers that will have you slam-dancing your heart out.

Each one of these songs was released as their own entities before the collection, and that is very evident as the record can be easily broken up into sections. To close things off, Lindsey picks up the acoustic guitar to really allow his song writing to shine through. No longer are they speedy charges through punk rocks history. Instead we hear some of his best work in the form of folk songs that really let us into his head. “No Time”, and “You Were Sleeping” are a nice and surprising change of pace that round out the man as a true musician that is not stuck in just one form.

Jay Reatard is not yet 30, but has already become an icon to the indie music explosion that has taken over. This record shows us growth in the musician as he continues to re-define what we call garage rock for a new generation.

Check Out:
“Always Wanting More”