Culture | Jay Reatard: musically challenged

Garage rock posterbaby throws another fit

“Barbarity” comes from bar-bar and barba, meaning “beard” in Latin. Jay Reatard, now 28, sports no beard – in fact, he looks more like a chubby baby every year – but he is outright barbarous. He is savage, and he will make a killing in Montreal this weekend.

Jay Reatard has been an infamous little shit ever since he hit the Memphis garage punk scene at the age of 15. He knew little about music and even less about tuning his own guitar, but he knew exactly how to be a crazy motherfucker on stage.

Known for his Iggy-inspired antics and wild punk music, Reatard (real name: Jay Lindsey) quickly became infamous in shady dives around America. Most of his earlier “projects” were just awful, and were supposed to represent some kind of godawful grainy garage punk.

His fans, needless to say, adored him. They loved the lo-fi sound, which Reatard totally ripped off the Oblivians, they thrived on the wreckage he left behind, and, more than anything, they idolized him. With a cult-like following – I hope they call themselves Reatard-heads – he racked up quite the resumé before his not-quite-mainstream breakthrough solo album, Blood Visions.

In 2006, shit hit the fanbase. Things changed. Even though his musical influences didn’t stray from “basic shit” like the Ramones or the Stooges, Jay Reatard’s songwriting skills really improved. On Blood Visions, Reatard turned to the synth sounds of the Screamers, and coughed out a solid 30-minute piece of work that has been tenaciously described as power-pop.

For those of you who haven’t listened to Blood Visions, it’s an album about a psycho who plans to kill his family. Lyrics like “take a piss from a jar / picking bugs from his arms,” or “time will heal the wounds but I / will kill you” obviously attracted more intelligent fans. The cover, which shows a chubby Jay Reatard splattered with fake blood while wearing a red speedo, is supposed to represent a sort of rebirth. And it’s true, he kind of looks like a large baby underneath all that blood.

Jay Reatard fans were pretty angry – this time angry at him. But like Reatard said in a Turn It Down interview, “If a band I like changes into something I don’t like, I just stop listening to them.”

When he isn’t touring, Jay Reatard is working on a new album, which is expected to come out early 2009. He has been cranking out some new tunes, and you can find them on his blog.

While his reputation still rests on fast-paced and aggressive live shows, his fanbase has changed, and you can expect a positive vibe. Some angry, violent fans may show up, but an even angrier Jay Reatard will make it up to you.

Jay Reatard will be playing this Saturday at the Juste Pour Rire Cabaret.


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