How good is Jay Reatard? Last year in Bristol he played about 300 songs in one hour, doublespeed versions with the title barked into the mic beforehand. There is a review here, but basically: if you like any sort of noisy rock music, any sort of pop music, or any sort of hairy music, you will love this. Music. A man called Reatard will throw a melodic strop in front of your face. He will have some band members. It will be decent.
Memphis-based punk rock juggernaut Jay Reatard has adopted a fistful of musical approaches since he first began recording in his bedroom, writing and recording frantic punk, synth punk, power pop and straightforward rock & roll tunes at a frantic pace since releasing his debut EP in 1998. Reatard was born Jay Lindsey and dropped out of school when he was 15, owing to boredom with conventional education and a problematic home life. Lindsey became interested in rock & roll when he heard Nirvana via MTV, and in his mid-teens he began writing songs. After seeing Memphis punk blues legends the Oblivians open for Rocket from the Crypt, Lindsey was inspired to try something similar and created the Reatards, which initially was just Lindsey, who sang, played guitar, and beat on a bucket with a stick for the benefit of his four-track cassette machine.
Eric Friedl, aka Eric Oblivian of the Oblivians, was impressed enough with Lindsey’s early recordings to offer to release a Reatards record through his label Goner Records, and their debut 7″ EP, Get Real Stupid, appeared in 1998, with Lindsey adopting the stage name Jay Reatard. A full-length Reatards album, Teenage Hate, appeared later the same year, with Reatard forming a three-piece version of the Reatards so the band could play live, featuring Steve Albundy Reatard on bass and Elvis Wong Reatard on drums. A second Reatards LP, Grown Up Fucked Up, was issued by Seattle’s Empty Records in 1999, but the following year, Reatard formed a side project, the Lost Sounds, which soon became his main musical outlet. Featuring Reatard’s then-girlfriend Alicja Trout on keyboards and guitar and drummer Rich Crook, the Lost Sounds were a synth punk band heavily influenced by the Screamers, with Reatard and Trout trading vocals back and forth; they released four albums between 2001 and 2004, but abruptly split up in 2005.
During the Lost Sounds’ lifespan, Reatard briefly reunited the Reatards and performed with the Bad Times (featuring Eric Friedl), the Final Solutions (including Reatard and high-school buddies from the band the Jackmonkeys) and Angry Angles (a collaboration with members of the Lids, Die Rötzz, and Tokyo Electron), and after their breakup he briefly recorded with Terror Visions and Destruction Units. In 2006, Reatard stepped out as a solo artist, releasing a single “Hammer, I Miss You” on Goner and a full-length album, Blood Visions, via In the Red. After issuing a handful of solo 7″s, Reatard signed with Matador Records in 2008, and in April of that year he released the first in a series of six singles for the label, “See Saw.” In June Matador released Singles 06-07 which gathered up songs from an array of singles and labels, then followed it in October with Matador Singles ’08, which collected all the singles released for the label in 2008 plus one bonus track.
One of the many signs that things were going in one direction and one direction only, Jay was asked to record a cover of Beck’s “Gamma Ray” (Jay’s version is the B-side of the original) and open one of the superstar’s L.A. performances. Somehow, Jay crammed writing and recording of the new album into 2008 and winter of 2009, then gave the world a glimpse of where his head was songwriting-wise by contributing “Hang Them All” to a split 7” with Sonic Youth for a Record Store Day (4/20) exclusive release. It’s worth noting that Jay has traveled from one extreme to the other with his new album’s recording process, strengthening the anticipation felt by a still-growing fan-base. He says:
“I’ve always finished my recordings and then a label is decided on. When I made Blood Visions, I had no idea that it was going to see the light of day. And I’ve never made a record in which the label heard the songs, or anyone heard the songs, before the album was finished, so that’s kind of intense. But I’m trying to go about this process in a way that’s the closest to how I would have done an album in the past.”
With the exception of “I’m Watching You,” Watch Me Fall was entirely recorded in his home studio, Shattered Studios, with Jay playing every instrument, except Billy Hayes drumming on “I’m Watching You,” “Wounded,” “Rotten Mind,” and “Hang Them All” and Jonathan Kirkscey’s cello on “Hang Them All” and “A Whisper”. The album pits his instantly memorable melodies and uplifting Ramonesian simplicity against forceful, tireless playing and aggressive, often paranoid lyrics. Jay’s intense interest in classic pop songs (and artists that wreak havoc on them) is sometimes overlooked but pervasive here.
In 2009 Jay revived his Shattered Records label, which released primarily limited-edition vinyl from 2004-2006. Releases by Jeffrey Novak, The Oh Sees, Useless Eaters, Nobunny, Hunx and His Punx, Box Elders, Earthmen & Strangers, and New Zealand lo-fi legend Chris Knox reiterate its status as one of the premier garage rock labels in the world.
Sat 14th November – DHP presents…
Jay Reatard / Swnaton Bombs
Doors: 8 – 11 / £8 Adv