Classic Album Review: The Reatards – Teenage Hate (1998)


Band: The Reatards
Label: Goner
Year: 1998 (original release), 2011 (reissue with Fuck Elvis We’re The Reatards)

On January 13, 2010 rock and roll lost one of its most prolific practitioners, Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. aka Jay Reatard. Jay was only 29, but in his short time on this planet he had built up an intimidating discography comprising of at least 75 vinyl releases, all of which he recorded by himself, typically in his living room, giving Jay’s recordings a raw, intimate, lo-fi aesthetic. I have always been a fervent admirer of his solo work, but it wasn’t until recently that I truly appreciated his first band, The Reatards and their debut LP Teenage Hate released in 1998 when Jay was only seventeen years old. It is now being re-released by Memphis garage label, Goner – the same label that initially released it in 1998 – to celebrate the short life of its creator.

Teenage Hate is honestly unlike anything else I have ever heard. There’s an authenticity to it that is almost unreal. In eighteen songs, seventeen year old Jay creates a soundtrack for youth rebellion. Jay sings about the very issues that affect him on a daily basis. In opener, “I’m So Gone,” Jay laments, “I’m so gone, I got no home.” It’s songs such as this where the teenage hate in the title comes through. Having dropped out of school after 8th grade and moved out of his parent’s house soon after, Jay lived in some of the tiniest, cheapest houses Memphis had to offer; hardly a place to call home.

Jay shrieks and curses with the fervor and unabashed vulgarity of scum punk legends GG Allin and Darby Crash. Teenage Hate’s sound is as brutal as the lead singer himself. The record’s rackety, lo-fi production is simply dirty and will turn off most listeners, but charm those of us that love gritty garage. Sonically and musically, The Reatards owe a large debt to fellow Memphis garage punkers, The Oblivians, who served as mentors for the young Jay. Like The Oblivians, The Reatards create simple, sloppy and straight to the point punk rock songs, taking heavy influence from the blues, 60s garage and its imitators, as well as Memphis’s own Sun Records (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison) The Reatards, however, put a much deeper emphasis on immediate pop hooks.

Most songs have clear hooks and lyrics that are easy to sing along to. “When I Get Mad” could be an anthem for drunk, incoherent, pissed off boys across America: “When I get mad I don’t think/said I don’t give a shit about anything/when I get mad I’ll break anything/cause I don’t give a fuck about anything.” It’s not poetry, but that’s what is great about it. A poet would add metaphors and other pretty things to articulate the frustration of being seventeen. But, Jay is a real teenage punk in the midst of all the bedlam a poverty stricken, teenage, rock ‘n’ roll musician must endure. On this track, Jay sounds like Elvis on robitussin singing out of a garbage can. Truly beneath the noise, his vocals have a touch of traditional country, blues, and 50s- early 60s rock ‘n’ roll. Jay is simply telling his story with these songs.
Songs like “When I Get Mad” highlight the authenticity I spoke of earlier. Jay didn’t bullshit. When he said he’ll break anything, he meant it, as it was not uncommon for Reatards shows to culminate in broken beer bottles and blood. Often singers are far removed from the words that come out of their mouths, but with Jay everything is very direct and painfully real.

Jay’s presence on this record is undeniable, but his bandmates also play a big role in Teenage Hate’s overall sound quality. Steve Albundy Reatard plays the bass and Elvis Wong Reatard bashes away on the drums, both serving as the driving force behind these songs. Jay is the main songwriter and he created the hooks, but the songs wouldn’t sound nearly as catchy without the other Reatards. All three together are a juggernaut, like a burnt out 97’ Buick going 110 mph, they are relentless. Each song is extremely fast, averaging about a minute and half. In fact, they fly by so quickly that you have to listen to them at least a few times to truly appreciate the songwriting and pick up on some of the subtle influences.

As much as I love The Reatards, I will say that eighteen songs can be a handful. Eighteen songs of grimy guitars, muttered vocals, and lyrics about “teenage whores” can wear you down after a while. I wouldn’t say that by the end of the record, The Reatards are a one trick pony, but you feel like you get the idea long before it has reached its conclusion. The strongest songs are at the beginning, “I’m So Gone,” “Stacye,” “When I Get Mad,” “Outta Of My Head, Into My Bed,” but there are solid tunes throughout the whole album. I feel like some of the later tracks would stand out to me more if I heard them on their own, somewhere else, but after hearing so many other, somewhat similar songs they just feel weaker. The album’s closer “I Can Live Without You,” (the longest track at a whopping 3:06) lacks the excitement of an earlier song like “Stacye,” (misspelled for whatever reason) which is much more immediate with its Bay City Rollers styled chants “S T A C Y E.”

At its heart, Teenage Hate is a collection of classic themed pop songs buried beneath a slimy ramshackle production. It’s harsh, it’s filthy, it’s honest, but above all it’s fun. As visceral and volatile as this record is, it’s ultimately a fun rock ‘n’ roll record in the traditions of Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, and The Ramones. This record is just the beginning of Jay’s career, foreshadowing what he would later master in his synth punk band the Lost Sounds and with even wider success as a solo artist, earning him a place on Matador Records. Alas, Jay’s life and career ended shortly, but this re-release is a testament to Jay’s legacy, with it now garnering far more attention than it ever received in its initial run. Web sites such as Pitchfork now seem to be writing about every new posthumous Jay release, helping to popularize not only his garage music, but the often ignored punk sub-genre as a whole. Garage rock and Jay Reatard are like the anti-indie hero, the anti-Conor Oberst, if you will. This music isn’t a joke in any way, but it’s all about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously. Just look at the band’s name.

Classic Album Review: The Final Solutions – Disco Eraser (2003)


Artist: The Final Solutions
Year: 2003
Label: Misprint
Tracklist:
1) Deep Six
2) Bottom Of The Chain
3) I See You On A Path
4) Eat Shit, Hologram
5) No Final Solution
6) Need Me
7) I Can’t Sing Through My Fuzz Pedal
8) Electrofied
9) Disco Eraser
10) Russian Interpreter
11) Not Good
12) You Make Me Laugh
13) Die In The City
14) 40 Licks

Comments: Expecting Disco? You boring fucks! Well yes sir, Disco Eraser that is. The 2003 LP released by Jay Reatard side project- The Final Solutions. I bet you weren’t expecting a review in 2012 however. Why now you may ask. Well, this week KLYAM and friends will be attending the Boston screening of the Jay doc Better Than Something and I want to see everyone there! And if you are not a Boston denizen then hit up a local theater when the flick hits your town. So, in honor of this great event I decided to review a Jay record and with this being my most recent listen, why not? Here it goes…

I have always been one to judge a book (in this case an album) by its cover. Here we see five gentlemen standing outside a brick building just hanging around pounding back some Busch Lights. And that’s the feel of this record for me.  It’s very much a “let’s get shitty and jam” kinda record. No real female touch involved.  There’s an odd masculine (not macho) presence throughout most of Jay’s work and I certainly see it here. Just a bunch of dudes having fun and getting rowdy, but with instruments. Jay under the psudonym “Jimmie Jewlz” and his cronies (Quinn, Tommy, Justice, and Zac) mix together the raw, trashy sound of The Reatards with the more experimental, synth heavy style of the Lost Sounds (in fact fellow Lost Sound Alicja Trout co-produced the album with Jay). This is a fine piece of punk slime, the punk slime we champion on this site. Final Solutions definitely fill your little bellies with dark, vicious jam after jam. Nearly each song is under the two minute mark. The band cuts out any hint of filler, which truly makes the listener have a hard time hating this thing. And if you’re like me you already get a stiffy anyway when you hear most Jay recordings. Purchasing this record is the sonic equivalent of paying for a scantily clad woman to toss you around the room for twenty minutes, beating you mercilessly with each punch representing a new song. The opening track, “Deep Six” certainly wraps its noose around your neck and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Fast, futuristic, and instantly stuck in your skull. It smoothly translates into “Bottom  Of The Chain” a powerhouse song that is extremely catchy and diabolical, leading us to the LP’s greatest moment, “I See You On a Path.” The latter is a true pop gem, and though this album has loads of hooks, this track is a standout that foreshadows Jay’s incredible talents as a pop musician (however Tommy is actually the main songwriter on this song). The “oohhhhhoohwoooo” vocals are insane! coupled with the simple drum work, it doesn’t get any better. Then of course there’s classic Jay mantras in songs such as “Eat Shit, Hologram” where lead vocalist Zac Ives constantly declares “EAT SHIT!!!” Poor Hologram. One of my favorite tracks is the humorous, “I Can’t Sing Through My Fuzz Pedal,” which kicks off with some poorly recorded vocals that are naturally fitting. Not every song is a knock out, but like I said earlier these numbers are so brief, there’s not enough time to dislike them, you just go a long for the ride. There’s nothing earth shattering on this record and it pretty much sticks with the same sound/style, but it’s a fucking awesome sound and the whole band destroys.  I will make one exception actually. The final song “40 Licks” feels pleasantly out of place- it’s like an 80’s pop song. It’s really cool though – not a pussy song – I assure you no wavers out there. I have a burning desire to sync it up with that club scene in  The Terminator when Arnold finally finds Sarah Connor and he pushes through all the dancers in slo-mo! So yeah, a solid album from The Final Solutions – absolutely one of Jay Reatard’s greatest musical contributions, not quite as amazing as his later output, but certainly worthy of (high) recommendation. This shit has incredible replay power; I’ve listened to it three times while writing this review!

Classic Review: Deerhunter- Carve Your Initials..

Full Title: Carve Your Initials Into the Walls of the Night
Artist: Deerhunter
Year: 2005
Tracks:
1) Bright and Early
2) Cicadas
3) Rotation
4) But, I’m A Boy
5) Three Dolphins Melting Into Orange Wax
6) Snow Dogs
7) Dogs Are Cool
8) Homorobotic
9) Cordless
10) When I Taste Blood

Comments: On Saturday, December 12, 2009, Bradford Cox made this old, obscure, 2005 Deerhunter recording freely available to download from the Deerhunter blog (http://deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com/). He also had this to say: “Responding to several requests I have dug up an old copy of this 2005 Deerhunter CD-R. It features only me and Moses and is very experimental in nature. This was during our “tape phase” when we would often play shows as a duo (or as a trio with colin) playing only tape machines and vocal loops. Recorded live to 2-track cassette machine at Moses’ old house on North Ave & Ponce
“Mastered” at the Old Notown building on my dad’s ancient PC using Soundforge,
Scans of all orignal artwork from the Notown Xerox Machine included.”

Now, considering this was just a private recording not intended for official release this is more of a shout out then a review. It’s more of a way for me to keep things interesting and spread the word of some of Deerhunter’s lesser known work. I consider them to be one of the best Rock and Roll bands today and of all time, for that matter. This recording from 2005 is to me their most experimental and shows the different intricacies and dynamics of their sound and perhaps how it has evolved. What we hear on this recording is far different from much of their output and as I said far more experimental with practically none of the pop elements we are accustom to in Deerhunter’s music, which is totally fine and cool in a way. I always enjoy hearing something by a band that is completely different from anything else they have released.  At the same time, one can definitely see how this is Deerhunter and how these sounds/elements/vibes would eventually find their way into later works.  On this reocrding, we hear a lot of dance- club scene music (especially on “But, I’m a Boy) which could faintly be heard on their debut LP Turn It Up Faggot, also from 2005 (though recorded in 2003 or 2004).  Except on that record, they were far more beastial, garage, and chaotic- also there was a full band, if I’m not mistaken. Bradford always describes that record in a negative manner, saying they weren’t ready and that they were a young band.  That could be said about Carve Your Initals.. but I feel like this recording is actually the stronger of the two and feels more complete; I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. I actually prefer Faggot, but this record (if you want to call it that) has its sound down pat and as far as experimentation goes, it seems like it is alway open to anything, while the former felt confined, albeit nice to rock and freak out to. There is a lot to be appreciated here and best of all it shows the potential and neat character of what would later become an amazing band.

I know I’m a  year and half late on this, but thanks for this free CD Bradford!

Classic EP Review: Deerhunter- Fluorescent Grey

Artist: Deerhunter
Full Title: Fluorescent Grey EP
Year: 2007
Label: Kranky
Tracks:
1) Fluorescent Grey- 9
2) Dr. Glass- 7/8
3) Like New- 7
4) Wash Off- 9
Comments: Fluorescent Grey is a strong release from the always mind blowing Deerhunter. FG is a good middle ground between the more experimental aspects of Deerhunter’s earlier career and what would become their far more accessible, pop driven style in future albums. In this sense, this EP is a nice companion to their then previous LP Cryptograms (2007), as they often appear together as one full package. FG is representative of the more traditional pop song half of Cryptograms, leaving the more experimental, ambient half behind for this release. In some ways, Deerhunter recycles many of the same ideas and sounds from that record, but overall the songs are so strong it really doesn’t matter. I can’t say there’s a huge progression, except maybe in the title track, which is easily one of the group’s finest songs in all of their catalog, but who cares?! This is an EP, and a great one at that. Deerhunter’s lesser works are half your average band’s strongest records, if even that. Anyway, I love the opening guitar riff to FG and the vocals are really creepy, but what stands out the most is definitely when the song “explodes” midway through after Bradford utters the classic line “you were my God in high school.” Just everything about the song is fantastic, the simple drums the contrast between mellow, calm vibes and complete chaos, violence; a great microcosm for Deerhunter as a whole. The next two tracks “Dr. Glass” and “Like New” are pretty solid and demonstrate the band’s talent as songwriters, but they are not on par with the first last and tracks. Speaking of which, “Wash Off, ” the final song is now one of my favorites from these guys. It’s a really catchy song, and the guitars sound like they are from some sort of 80s John Hughes flick: it simultaneously displays the pop side of them with the equally bizarre side of their music. In terms of lyrics, these are some of the most fascinating I’ve seen from Bradford (actually that could be said for all the songs here)- I love how it gets really manic and wild when Bradford starts singing “I was sixteen” over and over again. For whatever reason, it just makes the music seem that much more intriguing and strange for that matter. WO really showcases the Punk, Garage, if you will side to the band, which is usually there, but not as apparent. Here, Bradford, Lockett, Josh, Colin, and Moses place their Atlanta roots on their sleeves. I feel like this track perfectly captures the frenetic aspect of early Deerhunter in perhaps a bit more soothing fashion, but very tight and purposeful, and that’s the way I like it! So, now after hearing this EP, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to actually sit down and listen to all four of these songs as one collective. Without a doubt, a sound record and as with all of Deerhunter’s releases, powerful enough to stand alone, but shares that wonderfully distinctive, calmly menacing quality that runs throughout all of Deerhunter’s discography.

Grade: 8/10

Classic Album Review: Animal Collective- Sung Tongs

Full Title: Sung Tongs
Artist: Animal Collective
Year: 2004
Label: Fat Cat
Tracks:
1) Leaf House- 7
2) Who Could Win a Rabbit- 9
3) The Softest Voice- 7
4) Winters Love– 9
5) Kids On Holiday- 7/8
6) Sweet Road- 7
7) Visiting Friends- 6
8) College- 7
9) We Tigers- 8
10) Mouth Wooed Her- 7/8
11) Good Lovin Outside- 8
12) Whaddit I Done- 7

Comments: Animal Collective is in the haus with some wonderful tongs for you and me. These tongs are brought to you by Panda Bear and Avey Tare, two of today’s greatest tongwriters. On this record, we hear mostly soft tongs, an incredibly warm, serene vibe is communicated. Much of the loud, manic, beastial quality to AC’s music as can be seen in their then previous release Here Comes the Indian (2003) and later recordings is absent here. Instead, we experience something much gentler and calmer- which isn’t bad, but at the end of the day isn’t what I chiefly adore about this group. With that being said, it works quite well on this record and emotional inducing songs like “Winters Love” and “Kids On Holiday” (particularly the former) produce a massive feeling of nostalgia and an almost quiet joy in me. WL is without a doubt one of AC’s best musical moments, powerful in it’s shamanistic yalping and simply acoustic guitar strummin’. Speaking of which, the acoustic guitar plays a crucial role in the sound and recording of this album; it’s all acoustic! Naturally, the lack of electric guitar has an undeniable impact on the sound/production of the album, and for fans of more folkier music this might be a positive thang, for those that dig heavier music, then I could easily see this as a turn off. In any case, I feel like the boys succeeded in what they set out to do and though it lacks in the oft-seen menace of AC, it still delivers a bizarre mish mash of humanity and insanity- especially on what is arguably the band’s first breakthrough “pop” song “Who Could Win A Rabbit,” which was my introduction to their music. Rabbit’ is both playful and savage and is perhaps the biggest song from Sung Tongs. As a whole, I didn’t love this record, but I really dig it; ST marks Animal Collective’s transition from unknown Neo-Psych Rockers to fairly recognizable underground stalwurts.

Grade: 7/10

Box Set Review: Bill Hicks The Essential Collection

Full Title: Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection
Year: 2010
What’s On It?: “Ryko is proud to announce the release of The Essential Collection, a four disc set (2 CD/2 DVD) that encompasses Bill Hicks’ short but influential career as a satirist, social critic and stand-up comedian. The package contains double DVD discs with over five hours of footage from Bill Hicks’ personal archives including rare, never-before-seen performances from the early 80’s, the cult short film Ninja Bachelor Party (starring Bill Hicks, Kevin Booth and David Johndrow), in-depth interviews with Hicks and a photo gallery from his family’s keepsakes. The 2 CD discs offer over two hours of his best stand-up material with never-before-released performance pieces from a San Ramon , CA show recorded by Bill Hicks that was found in his archives. The box set also features new liner notes written by family members as well as renowned figures (including Henry Rollins, Eric Bogosian, noted UK author Paul Outhwaite, and UK journalist/tv personality, Clive Anderson), and a download card containing original song recordings by Hicks (that were mastered at Abbey Road Studios – London, England) entitled, Lo-Fi Troubadour.”- http://www.billhicks.com/essentialcollection.html

Comments: I am a die hard Bill Hicks fan (if you visit the site frequently, you should know that- hence the “Hicks Vid of The Day” posts), so when I heard about this box set I knew I had to have it. First, I threw in the CDs only to be somewhat dissapointed that I knew all the material. Hicks fans should be warned (though it was advertised) that the CDs on here are essentially the same as those found on Rant In E-Minor, Dangerous, and other Hicks albums. I had the impression that this would be new material and already owning all of Hicks’ recordings pretty much made nearly half of this box set obsolete. With that being said, considering this is an Essential Collection, it should have his best material. So, I guess I can’t complain. Now, the DVDs are another story. With a few exceptions, I had never seen any of the live performances they offer us here. They truly are rare, never before seen shows. Mostly we see early Hicks, all the way back to his teen years (or close to it) mocking his parents, teachers, and the drinkers of the world. Then just a couple of years later he, himself is pounding them back and discussing his experiences with cocaine and acid; I’ve never seen Hicks talk about doing blow before and being a Hicksian scholar, I knew he did plenty of it, but this just goes to show you how obscure and old some of these performances are. With some exceptions out there, before this collection was released you would be hard pressed to find footage of entire performances of Hicks from 81-88 (the wild, drunken, drugged out Hicks era). Though, on this DVD, his sets are all comedy and there’s no hullabaloo a la audience members heckling “YOU SUCK!” and Hicks retaliating with verbal rape. His routines range from school/home life to his earliest forays into the realm of politics/society, jokes about the military and government, amongst other topics. Some of the material you have seen/heard before, but there is plenty on the plate I guarantee you have not. Besides performances, the interviews are fun to watch as well as the epic kun-fu classic, Ninja Bachelor Party, which I was already a big fan of. If you’re into Hicks, I recommend this and if you have never heard of him or are not that familiar with his work, then this is a good place to start.

In the spirit of Bill

Grade: 8/10

Classic CD Review: Cuts [2005]


Band:
Toy Love
Label: Flying Nun

1. “Squeeze” – A
2. “Rebel” – A+
3. “Don’t Ask Me” – A
4. “Sheep” – A
5. “I Don’t Mind” – B+
6. “Swimming Pool” – A-
7. “Death Rehearsal” – B+
8. “Bride of Frankenstein” – B+
9. “Toy Love Song” – B+
10. “Photographs of Naked Ladies” – A
11. “Bedroom” – A-
12. “The Crunch” – A
13. “Ain’t It Nice” – A
14. “Cold Meat” – B+
15. “Don’t Catch Fire” – A-
16. “Green Walls” – A-
17. “Pull Down the Shades – A++
18. “Frogs” – B
19. “Fast Ostrich” – A-
20. “Amputee Song” – A-
21. “Good Old Joe” – A-

Comments: Toy Love was an extremely short lived (’78-’79) band from New Zealand. Their legacy proved more lasting as Flying Nun decided to re-master the band’s first LP and include unreleased tracks in a greatest hits compilation called Cuts. The first disc in that set called The Authorized Version is a journey in new wave and punk rock. A song like “Squeeze” is a “Shout To The Top” before “Shout To The Top.” It’s one very rooted in New Wave before most of the world even knew of New Wave.  Speaking of that kind of stuff, “Rebel” sounds like a reaction to the Mod Revival that was occurring around the time of Toy Love’s inception. Choice lyrics: “Credit cards and a maserati/Don’t go to films/Less he knows they’re arty/Likes Women’s Lib/And the Values Party/He’s a Rasta, he’s New Wave/Don’t do nothing/Less he’s told exactly/How to behave.” “Don’t Ask Me” takes a sojourn back to the days of the Velvets/early early punk rock ‘n roll. A catchy chorus “I don’t know where I’m going to” followed by a lush organ equals a neat song in “Sheep.” I’m not so sure I can really grasp how well constructed most of these songs are. Kiwi rock was functioning on a different plane than most of its genre counterparts, taking aim at a bunch of thriving sub-genres from outside the island nation. The transition from “Green Walls” to “Pull Down The Shades” might be the most brilliant of its kind that I’ve heard. I first heard “Pull” when Jay Reatard covered it for Stroke, a Chris Knox tribute album. I prefer the one on this album, with its absolute raw energy and hooky as hell vibe. It’s one of my favorite songs (in general). As a whole, I’d say this record is on the very good end of things. Only a few tracks truly standout, but the rest of them are worthy of some merit. It’s easy to see the influence that this may have had on ’80s alt-rock and ’90s and beyond post-punk/power-pop.

Grade: A-