Mad bastards like Jay Reatard only come around every so often, but it’s funny how long they stay with us even after they’ve left.
Mad bastards like Jay Reatard only come around every so often, but it’s funny how long they stay with us even after they’ve left. I don’t mean this sentimentally; in Reatard’s case, it can be measured in stacks of LPs and 7”s. The legendarily prolific stoner punk singer-songwriter left behind such an extensive discography that to new ears it may feel like he’s still putting out new music. Case in point: Goner Records’ re-release of his long out-of-print second album with The Reatards, Grown Up Fucked Up.
The reissue, remastered by the same folks who worked with Goner on Teenage Hate, is pulled straight from the original DAT recordings and bundled with the single, “You’re So Lewd.” Not much has changed, and as the label says, Jay would want it that way. Between Reatard’s screaming hate fuck of a voice (which still blows out any speaker in earshot) and Sean Albundy’s distorted guitar (evocative of guys like Ron Asheton and Bob Stinson at their most vicious), it almost feels like drummer Rich Crook got shafted, buried far below everyone else in the mix. The overall effect, though, is stunningly energetic.
Reatard recorded this record in August 1999, when he was still 18 years old, and if you don’t feel bad when you read that, I’m actually really happy for you; you must have been amazing at 16, and not a failure like the rest of us. This fact, of course, informs much of Grown Up Fucked Up’s content, where Reatard just hates everybody and wants to get laid and do drugs and shit like that. But when it hits, it hits, especially when it’s cutting through all the bullshit that we tell ourselves about rock ’n’ roll on tracks like “I Want Sex” and “Lick My Leather.” You either want to fuck or are going fucking crazy (“Sat. Night Suicide,” “All the Walls Are Closing In”).
Like most teenagers, these songs don’t last very long, even when they’re good. Each song passes by in under three minutes, and the actual album (not counting bonus material) only lasts about 25 minutes. The shortest songs have most of the best ideas, full of incredible riffs and adrenaline in 100 seconds or less. There’s a poetry to that form of punk, one that’s seemed to disappear over the years as the Rock Opera has come back into vogue for the Matador set. There an inherent (and weirdly mature, on Reatard’s part) understanding that, occasionally, a two-minute track will have more of an impact than a five-minute track.
Now that this record’s been rescued from the forced obscurity of scarcity, from tall bearded guys with “oh-you-should-have-been-there” sighs in their voices, from the hands of swindling scoundrels charging asinine prices for a first pressing on Discogs, it can return to its true and proper place in the universe: in the ears of a bored-ass teenager on a too hot summer day in the South, looking for a party and looking to get laid. This is angry music meant to sweat out your youth to. Nobody quite understood that like Reatard did, and few records understand that like Grown Up Fucked Up.