Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jay Reatard RIP

Jay Reatard’s sudden and still unexplained death last week, at the age of 29, shot an enormous shockwave amongst his fans and friends and family and yet, it seems, sent little more than a tremor through the world’s broader music stage. It’s not that people didn’t like his mad, frenetically turbo-charged garage punk enough; it’s just that not enough people knew it.

I still don’t quite understand how some music, and some musicians, seem to capture the attention of the spotlight so quickly, and others don’t. If it had anything to do with the creativity and inspiration and talent of the artist, Jay Reatard’s passing would have registered on the music world’s Richter scale every bit as loudly, every bit as violently, as does his music in the veins of anyone who listens to it.

But it was enough, at least, to inspire me to plunge into his debut solo album, Blood Visions.

Blood Visions is an album that fires its adrenalin and energy at you like bullets from a machine gun. None of its 15 songs last much more than a couple of minutes and some of them much less than that but each gives you such an instant hit that, by the end of the album, you feel you’ve just had 15 shots of Red Bull.

The whole album lasts for only around 30 minutes, but it hardly draws a breath, even between tracks, and neither do you. Its pace is relentless, but not even for a nanosecond does it lose its focus, its razor edge precision, where every note, every beat, is fired at you faster and sharper than laser light.

It’s astounding how much Jay Reatard manages to achieve in such tiny spaces of time, like the way the tonality unexpectedly descends a semitone, dragged down by its own weight, in ‘My Shadow’, or the way the vocals come at you like percussion in ‘Death Is Forming’ and ‘I See You Standing There’, or the ferocious sound wall that’s built at the end of ‘Oh It’s Such A Shame’, or the nail-biting dialogue between vocals and instrumentals in ‘Turning Blue’.

The album leaves you wired and breathless but, like Jay Reatard’s life, it is over far, far, far too soon. But what it produces in such a small snatch of time is so full of power and force that it’s enough to give you a black eye.

Blood Visions is sensationally good and grimy garage punk, and thanks to Melbourne’s Missing Link Records for its enthusiastic advocacy of the music of the insanely talented Jay Reatard – mourned far too soon, and far too little.

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