James Lee Lindsey—a.k.a. Jay Reatard—was a teenage Oblivians fan when he made his first home recordings as “the Reatards,” fueled by garage-rock, punk, and the screechier edge of new wave. Later, he descended even further into the murk with dozens of other bands and side projects. Then shortly before his death in 2010, Reatard began to clean up his sound, letting the hooks that were always buried deep in his music come to the surface. Reatard’s last few years of singles and albums (from Blood Visions onward) are his best work, but there’s something to be said for the purity of the songs collected on Goner Records’ reissue of the Reatards’ 1998 debut LP, Teenage Hate. Goner fills out the reissue with other early Reatards recordings (including the entirety of the EP Fuck Elvis Here’s The Reatards, which Oblivians co-founder Greg Cartwright midwifed), but Teenage Hate is the main attraction: 18 distorted, yelping, frenzied songs about being young, rootless, lovesick and angry.
The whole album sounds like it was recorded on a telephone, which means that on the rare occasions when the songs push past the two-minute mark, the noisiness obscures Reatard’s power-pop and rockabilly-influenced melodies. But Reatard’s self-deprecating sense of humor—matched to songs about how he “ain’t got no home” and “don’t give a shit about anything”—put all the youthful rebellion and sonic slop in context. Teenage Hate was recorded at a time in the singer’s life when one bad breakup could feel like the end of the world, which comes through in the nihilistic anti-love songs “Down In Flames,” “Quite All Right,” and “I Can Live Without You.” His salvation? Music, which spurts out with the force and raunchiness of a bodily fluid.