Thursday, July 16, 2009

Live: Jay Reatard

When: 7/1
Where: Stuyvensant Oval

I've obviously fallen hopelessly behind on my live reviews, but I'm trying to catch up. Summer is not a good time for deadlines and work ethic, I hope you can excuse the delays!

Jay Reatard is a junior high dropout who makes sharp, burning garage punk, packed to capacity with bright hooks and riffs. I'd heard his live show was even more exciting than his recordings, so I was pretty eager to check it out.

My reaction was mixed however. On the one hand, the band, whose proto-grunge hair-metal look was straight out of 1988 Seattle, rocked hard. Head banging, unwashed hair flying, Flying V's wailing, this is rock music at it's rockin'est. Visually, the band reminds me of the Meat Puppets in more ways than one, and there's some parallels between their music. From Reatard and his band's fashion and their technique, it's clear they don't reject all rock traditions. Like the Meat Puppets, they are punk rock but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. There's nothing wrong with nice lead guitar work and a nice head of hair.

On the other hand, Reatard's fast and frantic delivery obscured many of the hooks in both the vocals and the guitar. If I weren't familiar with a lot of the songs, I would have been unimpressed, since without their strong tunes at the forefront, they all sounded the same.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the show, but for new listeners, I'd highly recommend checking out some of the recorded singles before showing up at a concert. Reatard may blast energetic garage noise better than most people around, but its his songwriting that makes him worthy of your attention. And you might not hear that at the show, but you can't miss it on a single released track of his recent career.


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