Jay Reatard likes to spread himself thin: The high-school dropout has joined upwards of 15 bands (the Lost Sounds, the Angry Angles, etc.) in the last decade, all while releasing solo singles, EPs, and other recorded ephemera at a manic, Bob Pollard–worthy clip. A handful of boutique labels, most of them based out of his Memphis hometown, tend the kid’s impressive discography, dangling ever-replenishing prizes much admired and desired by record collectors—also like Pollard, Reatard has managed to turn his unwieldy creativity into something buzz-worthy, if not quite profitable. Hence the garage-rocker’s latest paymaster: Matador Records. Matador Singles ’08 (not to be confused with the recent Singles 06-07) collects the half-dozen seven-inchers (adding one new tune—that’s 13 tracks total) he’s released since April.
Fortunately, Jay’s music doesn’t require any more time than the little he has to spare. The filthy scrim of lo-fi fuzz cloaking these pop-punk rave-ups suits them perfectly. Every tinny snare and jangling guitar on “Painted Shut” and “Screaming Hand” is calculated for maximum damage; take these geek-snot anthems out of the garage and they’d over-ripen in the sun. And though Jay’s tunes may sound recycled from dead songs—each bridge slammed recklessly somewhere between verse and chorus—every limb is healthy in its own right: Check the heroic lead guitar opening “Always Wanting More” or the bratty synth line circling “You Mean Nothing to Me.” There isn’t a bad idea in the bunch.
Which isn’t to say Matador Singles doesn’t sound exactly like his earlier collections. Part of Jay’s charm is his propensity to endlessly repeat himself, to rush through every two-minute stomp just to get to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Even his subject matter—girls, death, girls—are boyhood anxieties that his songwriting seems unable to live without. But hey, Guided By Voices never grew up—why should Jay?
Jay Reatard plays Bowery Ballroom October 24 and Glasslands Gallery October 25