Jay Reatard's visibility outside of the garage punk underground was steadily on the rise in the last years of his life, having signed with Matador Records in 2008 and issued a handful of singles before his album Watch Me Fall arrived less than six months before his death in January 2010. As a consequence, many new fans were still catching up with Reatard's many previous projects, recorded for a variety of small labels, when he passed, and for those still investigating his earlier works, Blac Static is a fascinating collection that gathers the high points of his years with one of his most interesting bands, Lost Sounds. While his first serious group, the Reatards, offered up frantic, lo-fi garage punk, and his final solo LPs were devoted to hot-wired pop with a punky undertow, Lost Sounds at once sounds like the missing link between these two styles and something unique in his repertoire. Lost Sounds was one of Reatard's few projects that sounds like a genuine collaboration, with Alicja Trout trading off with Reatard on lead vocals while playing guitars and keyboards beside him. Lost Sounds held on to the harsh surfaces and in-your-face attitude that were Reatard's trademarks, with synthesizers sharing space with guitars in the arrangements, but here the group's more sophisticated melodies were just as important as their muscular attack, and there's a gloomy minor-key undertow to these tunes that suggests someone in this band had gone through a Goth phase in their youth. The banks of synthesizers give Lost Sounds a sound some have pegged as new wave, but this wasn't the friendly approach of A Flock of Seagulls or the Fixx, favoring instead the more ominous tone of earlier bands fusing punk with electronics; "I'm Not a Machine" and "Plastic Skin" could pass for outtakes from synth punk legends the Screamers, and the random noise patterns of "Dark Shadows" and "Rats Brains and Microchips" recall what Allen Ravenstine brought to Pere Ubu's early recordings. And as important as the keys and the melodramatic tunes were, there's no question that Lost Sounds were a rock band and they played like one, with Reatard and Trout unleashing fury on every track, Rich Cook pummeling his drums with brute force and precision, and a handful of bassists keeping the bottom end solid and unrepentant. Blac Static's fusion of rage and musical smarts is evidence that the excellence of Reatard's later solo work didn't come out of nowhere, and suggests that Lost Sounds were maturing into something quite remarkable before they broke up in 2005; what they left behind deserves a careful listen.
|Label:||Fat Possum Records|