I believe in rock and roll again, and its name is Jay Reatard.
Lately, I’ve been stuck in something of a musical rut. You know those times (days, weeks, sometimes even months) when all you’re listening to is snyth pop and dance music, and you feel suspiciously like a French teenager, and the closest you’ve been to a guitar recently is your annoying hippie neighbor who loves to smoke pot and then play Bob Marley songs on his acoustic all night? Yeah, that’s been me for a while.
And then it all changed with one bloody, tighty-whitey-clad kid from Memphis (for real- check out the album cover, he looks the love child of Tom Cruise from Risky Business and Sissy Spasek from Carrie).
Jay Reatard. (yes, pronounced retard- I feel awkward about it too) plays the kind of garage punk that makes you feel like a teenager again. But the best parts of being a teenager- angry, aggressive, full of energy and lust, when anything could happen but nothing ever did.
Reatard (the Reatards, The Lost Sounds, and the Angry Angles) is something of a wunderkind. He recorded his first record at the tender age of 15, locking himself in his room and playing all the instruments himself. He sent that demo to Eric Friedl, owner of Goner Records and former member of the Oblivians, and the rest is history. After forming and joining a bunch of great bands, Reatard released his first solo album, Blood Visions, last year. The songs are fast, tight and aggressive but they are also intricately melodic and the lyrics are clever and sharp. This is one of my favorite albums of the last year, so if you don’t have it yet, definitely go out and get it. As on his first record, Reatard plays all of the instruments and sings. At his shows, however, he is backed by fellow Memphians The Boston Chinks.
So onto the show.
Reatard has gotten a reputation that some of his front man heroes (Stiv Baters, Darby Crash, etc) would be proud of. I’ve heard a couple really gross stories about him that aren’t fit for a PG audience. However, he seems to have grown up and calmed down a bit. He paces himself now, doesn’t freak out quite as much, and puts on a show that is amazing and professional. The band tore through a 30 minute set that included most of Blood Visions- hitting highlights “My Shadow,” “Blood Visions” and “Nightmares.” I swear to God the band played everything twice as fast as they did on the album, but everything was perfect and tight. Everyone in the band has a compelling stage presence, but it’s Reatard who is the star. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. And neither could the rest of the crowd. The typical DC audience might resemble a still life, but this crowd was going bonkers. The show is already being referred to as a legend, right up there with Beck’s secret backstage performance. The next time Jay Reatard comes to town, do whatever you have to do to see him.