Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jay Reatard at Lenny’s. Atlanta, GA. Monday, Oct. 15, 2007.

Good punk rock is hard to come by these days. Sure, there is no shortage of sloppy twenty something’s decked-out in ankle-tight jeans and studded belts, going through the motions of three chords and a rage of ramped-up emotions. But in the year 2007 the uniform and the sound are as predictable as reggae music. This is precisely what made Jay Reatard’s
show at Lenny’s on Monday, Oct. 15 rise so far above the trappings of pedestrian punk showmanship. The secret: Good songwriting and a no-bullshit stage presence that’s followed through by the sheer force of a freight train.

Jay covers all of the bases with his approach, and the element of surprise is not to be underestimated. The sound guy barely had time to fade the house music out before Reatard and his freshly assembled crew of hirsute players flipped the switch and became locked in the throes of cathartic, head banging fury.

The show started seemingly without warning. One minute the band was lounging on-stage, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be, plugged-in and working properly. The next minute, puffy Caucasian afros were shaking violently.
As catty as it sounds, the band’s appearance plays a significant role in terms of the show’s overall impact. The group that Reatard has assembled for this tour does not look like the kind of dudes who would churn-out this variety of fast, angular and artsy punk rock. The baggy denim and flannel shirts jive more with the image one gets when envisioning the opening band for a Soundgarden gig circa ’93.

Jay Reatard’s songs are built around a kind of speedy melancholy that taps into a lineage of dark pop and unapologetically punk rock tones. One could compile a list of sounds, and musical phrases that touch on everything from Wire’s “12XU” to the Ramones’ “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” to the Buzzcock’s “What Do I Get.” But Reatard breaks the mold by injecting such a strong sense of personality and real-time experience into the music that his songs transcend simple pop and punk wallpaper. He is a Songwriter with a capital “S” who knows the power of subtlety and impressionism in his storytelling. And the true impact comes with the delivery of each song.

As the band raged through what was maybe a half-an-hour set, there was not a moment of silence between songs. Each number bled into the next in a wall of noise that smeared over the pop elements of each song with just the right amount of noise to keep the ears and the brain racing to stay locked-on to the melodies. The hooks were strong, heart-wrenching and much dirtier than the already fuzzed-out qualities that take shape on Reatard’s ’06 full-length, Blood Visions (In the Red). The record, which was recorded partially by Carbonas’ drummer/producer Dave Rahn, is strong and fast-paced, and sharply personifies of the kind of energy and character that sets Jay Reatard apart. But live the group exudes a sense of spontaneity that transcends fashion and form, and rekindles the energy of great and truly timeless punk rock.

By Chad Radford