Teenage Hate was first released in 1998, and was the first full-length record from the prolific and wildly talented punk rocker Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr. who, at 17, had already adopted the surname Reatard. This exhaustive reissue — which includes tracks from two early cassettes, The Reatards and Fuck Elvis, Here's the Reatards, a whopping 39 songs (!) total — arrives nearly a year and a half after Lindsey's untimely death at the age of 29.
For casual fans or those only acquainted with Lindsey's work under the solo Jay Reatard moniker, Teenage Hate might come across strikingly raw. Lindsey's muse was constantly evolving; so much so that his final record, Watch Me Fall, was practically a pop album, complete with acoustic guitars and an actual music video. It's painful to think about Lindsey's potential, and his nascent talent is evident in these early songs, which are heavily indebted to the blues leanings of Lindsey's heroes, the Oblivians. They also offer an astonishing snapshot of how much his output changed in the dozen subsequent years. Yes, these songs are caustic and unforgiving, but they're also thrilling, and their obvious passion, in hindsight, points the way to his frantic later output like as if it were a foregone conclusion.
Teenage Hate is one of many posthumous Reatard compilations arriving in 2011, a move that would feel tawdry or cash-grabby if they were made up of nothing more than warmed-over b-sides. But there's nothing halfhearted about the music here, even if Lindsey seemed eerily aware that the end was coming. "Everything I do," Lindsey told The New York Times a few months before his death, "is motivated by the fear of running out of time."
Even the liner notes to Teenage Hate, written by Lindsey when he wasn't yet old enough to legally purchase cigarettes, are foreboding. In all capital letters, with barely any punctuation, Lindsey wrote, "We love living but we're living to die dying to live wanting more than being 17 can give…on the brink of turning 18 I wonder if all I have to offer the world is hate and negativity in the form of rock n roll or if everything will just magically change with the years… Rock and roll is my salvation it'll set me free whatever that means." Teenage Hate, is aptly named; but framed by that sentiment, the anger feels like freedom.