Remembering Jay Reatard (1980-2010)

Jan 14, 2010 10:11am

 Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. was a punk rocker from Memphis.  Having recorded music for the last 12 years, he established himself as a prolific master of brutally amazing garage punk.  Yesterday, at the age of 29, the artist who recorded under the name Jay Reatard was found dead.  We do not know yet what cut his life short, but like so many before him, his death silences a still growing voice.  The amount he had recorded and released in the last few years alone made him a bit of a legend.  He only released two solo studio albums,  (2006′s “Blood Visions” and last year’s excellent “Watch Me Fall”) but he really made his name by releasing a small mountain of stray singles.  These singles were collected on various compilations.  No doubt, in spite of his politically incorrect, awkward stage name, he was destined to be one of Matador Records’ most distinguished artists.  Sadly, at the time of his death, he was just emerging into a bigger realm. 
 Back in 2008, he released a blistering cover of Beck's "Gamma Ray," which complimented the free-wheeling go-go attitude of the original.  While “Blood Visions” was a full-throttle, fast paced audio assault, “Watch Me Fall” showed real maturity.  That album’s closer, “There Is No Sun,” was much slower by his standards, showcasing a sadder, more reflective power-pop side.  Unfortunately Lindsey’s songwriting will develop no more.  It’s as if a promise has been taken away.  Beneath his shock-inducing attitude, there was a real songwriter.  Strip away the theatrics and the distortion and his songs held up.  His vocal delivery was often in a faux British whine that would’ve made the original punks proud.  In many ways, he was a punk purist.  Many of his songs got to their points quickly, hovering at the one-and-a-half to two-minute mark.
 He was an unusual enigma.   I’m sad to see him go.  Few performers possessed such urgency.  In his honor, I will be listening to the song “My Shadow” on repeat multiple times in the coming days.  R.I.P. Mr. Lindsey! You will be greatly missed. 

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