Formal reviews won’t do this record any good; instead the notes on the sleeve that come from those closest to Angry Angles – Alix Brown (one half of the band) and Zac and Eric from Goner Records – tell the story of the band and this record better than any music writer will. The time frame is 2005, when Jay Reatard and Alix formed the band after the dissolve of Jay’s previous group, the synth heavy “dark wave” Lost Sounds. According to Zac, Angry Angles were Jay’s “return to punk, in a way. Still raw, but now more focused, with a pop sensibility.” They recorded a few singles in Atlanta and Memphis over the course of two years and even got some studio time in Montreal before Gonerfest 6 that culminated in three songs previously unreleased until now.
Unfortunately I was not hip to Angry Angles (or any of Jay’s pre-solo bands) prior to his death in January 2010. But upon listening to Angry Angles shortly thereafter, I was blown away. Listen after listen, this group became most certainly an all-time favorite, right up there with The Reatards and The Lost Sounds, both of which I also had no previous exposure. What stood out to me, particularly, with Angry Angles is sure they were dark and robotic (like The Lost Sounds), but they were mighty concise and sharp. Hook after hook. Jay’s quick fire/angular guitar playing, quasi Brit vocal inflection, easily identifiable drumming, and fat production – trademarks of what would be his solo style take root here. But this was a dynamic duo and Alix and Jay were musically perfect for each other, often taking the heaviest/simplest moments of Wire and Devo soundscapes and modernizing them with the relentlessness of your neighborhood garage band. It seems like Alix challenged Jay-isms to a most positive affect, to me, most apparently on “You Lied” stuffed with a more traditional sounding bouncy bass line and some piano.
Angry Angles no doubt were the basis for the direction that Jay chose to pursue throughout his mighty solo discography from Blood Visions through his final LP Watch Me Fall, which features a tune I never would have guessed was by Angry Angles — “Can’t Do It Anymore.” In fact the final three songs on here, which I mentioned were recorded in Montreal (and not by Jay himself) with drummer Ryan Rousseau, sound very much like Jay’s solo stuff. His obsession with doing it all himself, as Alix writes in her blurb about the album, gives insight into why they never saw the light of day until now. There are no ‘weak’ songs on here, all memorable jams, and I am so thankful for Goner for putting together this album. It is strange to think that over the past six years many of these songs like most of Side A and the first half of Side B have been so influential for me and I have played them over and over, if only via YouTube or a WFMU session. I’ll always say it and I know at least some others agree, the rock ‘n roll that came out of Memphis in the span of four years – 2005 to 2009 – is simply the best. Angry Angles, The Barbaras, Girls of the Gravitron, Boston Chinks, these are my favorite groups NOW. Back then I didn’t know such wonderful raw stuff. I was a teenager from Boston, MA, listening to The Strokes and The Libertines, damn was I missing out on the real good stuff, most of it coming from Jay and his adjacent friends and cohorts. I hope this record might incite or re-ignite passion, because Angry Angles and a healthy chunk of the Goners left (and still leave) an impact on me.