Inquiring Minds: Garage-Rock Fireman and Kiwi-Punk Buff Jay Reatard
Tonight Jay Reatard plugs in at Walter's On Washington, playing the first of three Texas dates before ending his fall tour behind August's Watch Me Fall release. On New Year's Eve, he opens up for Austin's Spoon in Milwaukee.
Memphis' Reatard, born Jimmy Lee Lindsey, has been a polarizing force in the garage-punk scene since he hung out his shingle with his seminal band the Reatards in 1998. Over the next eight years, the madly prolific guitarist and singer would form his own Shattered Records label and be involved in four other side projects of varying success and recording output. It wasn't until 2006's solo outing Blood Visions that Reatard became a marquee garage act and begin to pick up steam on national blogs and print media. Both of his subsequent woodshedding singles compilations, Singles 06-07 and Matador Singles '08 , would see him whittling his sound down to a fine, punky edge, solidifying his reputation as one of the modern garage guard along with the Black Lips and King Khan. Watch Me Fall is a decidedly poppier, but no less gritty, garage record, and Reatard will be the first to cop to trying to go in a hookier direction than his earlier output. Rocks Off caught up with Reatard as he was making his way to a tour stop in Orlando, Florida last week.
For Watch Me Fall, Reatard says he set out to emulate the kind of records he had been picking up from of all places, the garage-punk scene in New Zealand. He pointed Rocks Off to his favorite Web site, The Doledrums, to get an idea of Fall's lineage. Pretty much anything on Kiwi label Flying Nun fed Reatard's creative fire. Also adding to the soup for his new sound was the solo work of Wire co-frontman Colin Newman. The work of the Go-Betweens can also be heard on Fall, albeit in a much grimier glint. The reception on the road to Fall has been telling for Reatard, as he can now pick out who just recently saddled up to his sound and the others who have been championing him from his old Memphis days. Critical reaction to Fall has been positive overall, with only a few die-hards scoffing at what they see as a cleaner, spiffier album. It most definitely has a twinge of pop to it, but only in the sense that the songs are structured differently than the stuff from Blood Visions on back. As for his trademark seven-inch single output, those will resume in the coming year, he remarked. Expect at least three new EPs in the next year, with one being Reatard totally bared and acoustic. The aforementioned singles compilations collect all of Reatard's ideas he gathers on the road and in the studio. In a very real sense, the listener can track his evolution from single to single and from album to album. Not many artists are that transparent; with many making you wait three years in between new sides to see what's going on in their musical universe.
Backing up Reatard on tour is Danish band the Cola Freaks, who replaced his old band after his previous one left after a hilariously wet spat during October's Goner Fest 6 in Memphis. You can see the video above of the band's last performance together, and why it was their last performance together. Reatard assured us that his current band is decidedly tighter and less ire-inducing than the last.
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