Issue 22, Magazine

Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.

Alex Moore :: Monday, November 2nd, 2009 4:00 pm

Photos By Ray Lego

If you haven’t seen it, the new issue of Death+Taxes is alive with an interactive technology that allows you to take pictures of images in the magazine using the camera in your cell phone, and instantly get exclusive audio and video content delivered right to your phone. It’s insanely cool and we recommend you go find yourself a copy, but for now, we’ve translated the technology to the web so you can use it right now!

Just click through the jump, take a picture of the image of Jay drinking a beer in a cape with your phone (so that it takes up the whole frame) and email it to [email protected]. Or you can MMS text it to 66268. You’ll instantly receive a 30 second cut of a video from Jay Reatard’s photo shoot back to your phone.

Our article on Jay Reatard is after the jump as well.

“Everybody knows you never go full retard.” It was the best line Robert Downey, Jr. has ever delivered, if not his best movie, instructing Ben Stiller’s character on how to win an Oscar. “Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man—autistic, sure, but not retarded. Ask Sean Penn. I Am Sam—he went full retard, went home empty handed. Never go full retard.”

Never go full retard. The line kept turning in my head as the plane approached Memphis, Tennessee, where I was to spend two days with Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr., better known as Jay Reatard, in his hometown.

First, there was the question of the extra “a.” It’s pronounced “Retard ”—no ifs ands or buts about it—so what was the extra “a” doing in there? Was it his way of showing some restraint—of literally not going full retard?

Reatard’s career has of late been characterized by many superlatives, but restraint is not among them. When he learned recently that he was scheduled to perform in the corporate headquarters of Hot Topic, he protested not by canceling the appearance but by arriving dressed only in a Speedo and intentionally so drunk that he walked in, threw up, and passed out on the floor.

Or, I thought, maybe the mystery “a” was like the impeccable pop songs sealed just under the punk veneer of his new masterpiece, Watch Me Fall—deceptively simple songs that taunt you by making it look easy until you realize you damn well may be listening to the best rock tunes you’ve heard in a generation.

The truth is, as the plane touched down in Memphis I didn’t know what to expect—and Jay Reatard likes it that way. “I enjoy when there’s a distance between what something means and how it appears,” he’d later tell me. Reatard is an artist willing to go full retard and then some—to both fulfill your lowbrow punk expectations and subvert them with utter songwriting mastery; to cleave you with that which you most want from rock n’ roll and that which you never saw coming.

Which, of course, is what all the fuss is about—Reatard’s recent prodigious outpourings for Matador Records (Singles ’06-’07, Singles ’08, and now Watch Me Fall), have been lauded by everyone from DIY purists to the New York Times.

Driving to Reatard’s house in the swampy Memphis late afternoon (a particular humidity that Jay refers to as “hot coffee in your asshole”) I couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. As it turns out, I had every reason to. And thank god—finally someone is injecting a little rock back into rock n’ roll.

Jay Reatard’s adolescence was nothing like yours. After spending his first years in a small town in Mississippi—“my town had, like, literally a few hundred people”—he wound up in Memphis after his parents divorced, where he happened to catch local favorites The Oblivians opening for Rocket From the Crypt. It was a revelation. “They were so shitfaced on stage and having so much fun,” he says, “I was like, I can do this. This isn’t going to be impossible. If these guys can do it I can do it.”

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2 Responses to “Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.”
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