When a musician dies, especially one who seemed to buy into the rock & roll lifestyle as much as Jay Reatard did, it's easy to focus on the external factors of his life: the fights with bandmates, the unruly gigs, the weirdness, the manic behavior, the cause of death -- all the things that might distract you from seeing that Reatard was a seriously good songwriter and recordmaker. Sure, his live show was fun, but digging into his records you got the whole deal; good-time rockers, thoughtful near-ballads, songs that dealt with mortality, depression and uncertainty, songs that made you want to tear stuff up.
What was most interesting to me was that Reatard was figuring out a way to grow up on record without growing old, sacrificing a little bit of noise for a more restrained approach but doing it in a way that was just as powerful and intense. Listening to these songs now, you can only feel sadness that we won't ever be able to hear where he might have ended up.
(from Singles 06-07
"I Know a Place"
"Don't Let Him Come Back" (a great Go-Betweens cover)
(from Matador Singles '08
"You Were Sleeping"
(from 2009's Watch Me Fall