Written by Melanie Trecha
The re-issue of The Reatards' Grown Up, Fucked Up has resurfaced this angsty garage rock anthem. This blog discusses this album in terms of Jay Reatard's musical evolution and coming of age.
I have been blessed with the task of writing a piece on the reissue of an album called Grown Up, Fucked Up by The Reatards. The album was originally released in 1999, but is now making a comeback, thanks to the rad people over at Goner Records based in Jay’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
Starting out, I really love Jay Reatard’s music. From his recordings as a fifteen year old boy, to The Reatards, to his solo albums, the passion and talent are clear. Grown Up, Fucked Up is primitive, and remains primitive on the re-issue thanks to the label’s choice to do minimal re-mastering. An excellent choice, matching the simpler guitar rhythms and the straight-to-the-point song titles (see “I Want Sex,” “Miss You,” or “Get Outta Our Way”). Had Goner Records chosen to clean up the tracks, it would have felt like listening to extremely smooth-sounding, remastered Ramones tracks — kind of weird and uncomfortable.
This is a recording of a teenage boy’s transition to adulthood, loss of innocence, introduction of heartbreak, and angst. Frustration and self loathing are major themes, seen in lines like “I’m a dirty motherfucker, and no one can stand me”. There’s beauty in lines that aren’t dressed up; he’s just saying what he’s thinking, loud and clear.
Visuals are quite helpful, or even essential, to the message that a song or album is trying to convey. This shaky, close-up footage, shot during a show in a Reno basement in 1999, is key to understanding the artist at this age. Fun fact: one can even spot Ryan of Destruction Unit on bass. The behavior doesn’t come off as performance art, but rather a natural culmination of his teenage emotion, confusion, and angst. Music was his outlet. He wasn’t hiding or exaggerating anything.
Jay’s spastic thrashing — caught on an equally spastic video — displays frustration and internal anger that came as comforting and relatable to my teenage self, holed up in my room on Friday nights, scrounging the internet for new music to listen to. Heading out to a live show was out of the question — I was too young to have my driver’s license and lived at least 45 minutes from any live music venue, and there was no way my conservative parents would drop me off at a punk show in the city alone.
Here was someone perfectly displaying what I too was feeling but unable to articulate. Finding this and other Reatards records was huge for me. I’m glad this record was chosen to be re-released so this generation’s teens who are growing up and fucking up can find a little solace and enjoyment as well.
Reatard’s catalog of music chronologically makes sense: The Reatards, The Lost Sounds, and then his solo records. It wouldn’t have made sense for him to continue The Reatards in his late 20s. This specific project was made to be loud and angry, clearly marked by its youthful not-giving-a-fuck-ness. Instead, he later refines his sound and hones in on some of the best noise pop ever made. Blood Visions is one of my favorite records of all time, but there would be no Blood Visions if there was no Grown Up, Fucked Up. Nobody does it like Jay Reatard. Nobody will. This is one of those extremely rare modern punk records that could be mistaken for something released in the late 70s or early 80s that pioneered the genre. And as all modern Jay-related reviews conclude: rest in peace, you lil’ rock ‘n’ roll, punk-ass angel.