Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Jay Reatard – It Ain’t Gonna Save Me

Does your mother know you go around calling yourself that?…


Briony Edwards: Snotty, trashy and obnoxious: Jay proves that (at least one of) the Reatards are still capable of pulling off bratty sing-along punk with applomb. Slightly less ferocious than some of his previous efforts, but the song doesn’t suffer from this – and it’s still catchy as ever.

Chuck Eddy: Dude made a far better Adverts than he does a Verlaines. Strangely, though, this starts out more like the former. Still a sellout though – – especially when it gets to the “all is lost there is no hope” emo crap. Can we please all agree he should have packed it in at at the end of 2007, before he made all those wimp-ass Matador singles, and spare ourselves his next 20 years?

Dan MacRae: If you masturbate furiously to Rhino’s Poptopia compilations, this should be right up your alley.

Spencer Ackerman: It’s like Jay Reatard writes music just for me: bleak, hyper, poppy, simple. Good confection.

Alex Ostroff: Nasal self-loathing whine buried low in the mix below persistently chugging guitar chords, propulsive drums and what sounds like a double-time version of the piano track from “Closing Time”. I can’t remember the last time a song reviewed here knocked me over right out the gate, and I remain baffled that I’ve somehow avoided hearing him until this very moment, but I feel like I’ve just been punched in the stomach and trampled by a herd of wildebeests and possibly spit on. It feels good.

Melissa Bradshaw: Is this, like, Green Day for 5 year olds? I am not getting the irony.

Ian Mathers: The way his voice flips from adenoidal to fake-British is really, really annoying, and despite his garage/punk reputation the arrangement is neither energetic nor primally powerful enough to make up for it. Basically, this sounds like Supergrass for Dummies.

Martin Skidmore: Exciting, cutting edge sounds – if this were 1977. His punk pop has an appealingly rough and frenetic quality, but while he is copying the sound of my youth, this really isn’t significantly less retrogressive and lacking in imagination than bands that want to sound like the Beatles – 32 or 42 years, who cares? Still, some points for energy and an attempt at a fun chorus, and a likeably desperate voice.

Michaelangelo Matos: I wonder how I would have felt about Reatard if I’d first heard him years ago. I’m guessing the same way I do now: pretty diverting for a while (I like both the singles comps he put out last year well enough) but too basically samey to attend to full-time. Or maybe it’s just this song, which sounds like a formula Jay Reatard record.

Anthony Miccio: Despite repeated basks in the rush of Reatard’s Singles 06-07 compilation, I’ve never been inspired to learn the names of individual songs – it ain’t The Ramones unless you write a “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The chorus repetition here suggests he wants to earn his rising profile, but the hooks still don’t dig in so much as wash over.

Jonathan Bradley: A nice descending melody in the verses underpins the tune’s compact guitar racket, but even that’s the kind of joyous noise predecessors like the Buzzcocks or the Undertones were capable of producing in their sleep. Those bands understood there was very little difference between punk and pop; considering the distinct dearth of memorable hooks here, Reatard may need more instruction on that relationship.

Alfred Soto: The hook and Reatard’s nervous aggression are Buzzcocks-worthy — the extended organ solo reminds me of solo Pete Shelley actually — and I can easily imagine some enterprising teen using this as a gateway drug to deeper highs.

Doug Robertson: I have whole albums of stuff that sounds like this, you probably do too, but this song isn’t for us. It’s for those that don’t and for whom this will sound fantastically fresh and exciting, like the sound of raw rebellion, twisted into a digital form and released onto an unsuspecting world. I might have heard it done before, but I’m jealous of those who are discovering it for the first time and who feel the thrill of the new and the excitement of finding someone who they feel speaks for them and for them alone. Damned kids.

Iain Mew: Neat retro stylings, a strong chorus and well controlled bursts of energy are all well and good. There’s only so positive I can be, though, when your song is 2:22 and I’m still wishing it was shorter.

16 Responses to “Jay Reatard – It Ain’t Gonna Save Me”

  1. A++++++++ for the Supergrass ref, Ian.

  2. I guess Ian meant Supergrass’s debut album? (Which is the only time they sounded remotely Buzzcockish to me, though admittedly I stopped paying attention somewhere along the line as they got slower and duller; heard some good things about a couple cuts on their last one, though, so who knows?)

    Also assume Melissa meant pre-American Idiot Green Day, maybe even pre-Dookie Green Day. I kind of love the skepticisim her blurb, actually, though I’m not really sure why recombining these particular old sounds would necessarily be any more “ironic” than recombining whatever other old sounds everybody else making music recombines these days.

    Also agree with Anthony that, despite Reatard’s efficiency at his sound, it’s not exactly like he’s come up with that many indelible songs — forget “Blitzkrieg Bop”; he’s had nothing like an “Orgasm Addict” or “No Time To Be 21” or “Homicide” (that’s 999, kids) either. My favorite song by him is almost definitely “I’m A Lightning Bug” off Final Solutions’ 2007 Songs By Solutions album (which I also prefer to any of the Reatard albums I’ve heard.) It’s not quite “I Am The Fly” (Wire, kids), but it definitely gets its point across: “Lights go off, I light up/Fly all night til the sun comes up.” (Pretty sure it’s Reatard, anyway; he was in the band, supposedly, though no names are credited on the CD cover.) I’d give it a high 8 or low 9. Gratuitously mentioned it in my blurb for Owl City’s fellow Photuris lucicrescens ode “Fireflies” (difference in vernacular name is regional, I assume), but Will -probably justifiably — saw fit to leave that one unpublished.

  3. (Actually, my point about “recombining old sounds” — or maybe I should say updating them instead? – -probably has more to do with other blurbs, Doug’s and Martin’s for instance, than Melissa’s. And I agree with a lot of what Doug and Martin said too, fwiw.)

  4. Actually, the Supergrass song that came to mind first (for some reason) was “Richard III” but for sure this sounds a lot more like an I Should Coco outtake than anything else. Gee, looking at their discography Supergrass sure got boring quickly, didn’t they?

  5. An interjection: not only does “Man of Steel” annihilate this song, not only is it the best track on Watch Me Fall, it may be the best rock single of the year, straight-up.

  6. Well, I didn’t imply (or hear) any irony in what he was doing, and you’re right that tons of rock acts are just combining old sounds. You’ll note that they virtually never get good marks from me. My greatest objection is within rock – rock still likes to see itself as the sound of youthful rebellion, especially the punk genre, and the arena of sincere and meaningful artistic expression, and its tedious retrogressive tendencies bother me far more than in any other genre. But mostly I am just bored with hearing third-rate copies of old styles.

  7. Well, part of my point was that it’s not just rock music that recombines old sounds now; all types of pop music do it (for instance, as far as I could tell, the definitions of supposedly “exciting, cutting edge” so-called “funky house” music I’ve looked at entirely depended on the recombination of old genres, and obviously lots of Winehouse-era British soul pop, or Maxwell/Badu neo-soul or whatever, is as much third-rate rehash of old r&b as Jay Reatard is a third-rate rehash of old punk.) So I don’t get why rock should be singled out. But then again, for whatever reason, it’s not like much new rock is exciting me these days, either. (Though then again again, lots of the new country that excites me these days also recombines old rock sounds.) (And privileging certain non-rock genres just because certain sounds — production gimmicks, mainly — code as “new,” whether there’s a decent song attached or not, doesn’t make sense to me either. But I’ve said that before, many times, and there’s a good chance I’m battling a strawman when I do.)

  8. (Not that I have anything against production gimmicks, mind you. But they mostly fall under the heading “craftsmanship.” And if Jay Retard is anything, probably, he’s a craftsman.)

  9. And actually, there is a kind of rock these days that’s as obsessed with new strange innovative sounds as the most extreme kinds of electronic dance music or whatever, and it’s called metal. But just like in dance music, supposed metal innovations now seem to happen in almost indiscernible increments, within a more and more conscribed perimeter, so you need to be an expert with a microscope to even notice them. And I don’t count myself as one of those anymore. But if you want rock that isn’t a rehash, that’s still where to look.

  10. Funky house at least still sounds pretty new, and isn’t claiming to be anything more than fun dance music. Rock routinely, implicitly and explicitly, makes bigger claims for itself, and very little of it even sounds at all new, or like a fresh combination of ideas.

  11. Okay, I’ll bite. Where exactly does this song (or, say, the Biffy Clyro song we just graded) claim to be anything more than fun (and maybe expressive, though I doubt you’d deny some funky house shoots for that, too) punk music? Guess it’s possibly I didn’t listen to the words close enough. But I mean, come on — rock that doesn’t “see itself as the sound of youthful rebellion” has been around at least since the early days of Bachman-Turner Overdrive. And plenty of non– rock presents itself (or is marketed) as rebellion (youthful or otherwise), too. (As for “funky house,” the tracks I’ve heard sounded pretty decent, but I wouldn’t have figured it for a “new” genre if somebody hadn’t pointed that out to me.)

  12. Well, I guess you’ll say that Jay Reatard’s (and maybe Biffy Clyro’s — I actually don’t know enough about them to say) “images” are rebellious. And yeah, I suppose he’s packaged himself that way. Just don’t really see how that impinges on this particular song (which btw is less good than some of his more explicitly rebellious earlier songs.)

  13. Martin, I’m nowhere near being someone who creates or consumes the codes surrounding “funky house,” but it sure seems to be coding something more than just “fun dance music” – I hear stylishness, and the adventure and mystery of the night, and not just anyone’s night (no mere boshing Cascadas here), but a discerning listener’s poignant and risky night.

    Not that it shouldn’t, since something that’s “just fun” usually isn’t all that fun, but I don’t know of much that’s trying to be nothing more than fun anyway.

    I read you more as being fed up with rock’s tired and stodgy results, but that’s not a knock on rock’s ambitions, is it? I do see where one can argue that rock’s old ambitions have now become a cover for what’s actually defensive and unimaginative, but that’s not a result that’s written into either the ambitions or drawing on the not-so-recent past for one’s vocabulary.

  14. (Also, the adventure and mystery of the night is a role that rock once laid claim to, the electric excitement of the electric guitar, and rock’s night-time adventure is something that Marshall Jefferson in Chicago and the techno guys in Detroit were consciously emulating, right?)

  15. Honestly, my biggest problem with rock music these days is that it isn’t (or [i]doesn’t[/i], take your pick) rock [i]enough[/i]. Which I guess somewhat aligns with Frank’s “tired and stodgy results.” (And which, again, doesn’t mean I don’t find some other genres at least as tired these days.) (And again, if we’re talking “adventure and mystery of the night,” I don’t see how the Reatard “Lightning Bug” song I quoted above doesn’t aim for that, since that’s what the song’s [i]about[/i].)

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