by / November 18th, 2009 /

Jay Reatard – Whelan’s, Dublin

A man from Memphis plods onto the Whelan’s stage. Attached to his stout frame is a Gibson Flying-V guitar. Hailing from a city predominantly affiliated with the blues, he aims a plectrum at an instrument which has been adopted by purveyors of kitschy hair metal.

The ensuing racket may well extract some of the despair of the blues as well as more than a few decibels of metal, but it is neither (nor, thankfully, a hybrid). Instead, Jimmy Lee Lindsey is a psychopathic popstar. He’s Del Shannon with static and a sneer. He’s Buddy Holly with a restraining order. He’s every punk band which has ever formed, played two chords and imploded in a snotty mess, except distilled into one creature and a perm which covers every single degree of his head.

“We finally made it”. The Irish aficionado of Mr. Lindsey has been put through a lot of frustration and heartbreak lately. After releasing over twenty albums (and twice as many EPs) in the past decade, we were finally scheduled to come face-to-face with the mythical Reatard last November. Something happened which prevented this meeting, though the exact circumstances have been forgotten and are indeed irrelevant right now. History then repeated itself in February, which meant that any innate excitement about tonight’s show was automatically suppressed by the haunting memory of past disappointment.

The sinking feeling of the inevitable certainly wasn’t aided by last month’s news that Lindsey’s drummer and bassist (members of the catastrophically brilliant The Barbaras) had quit the band. Despite the fact that Lindsey produced The Barbaras’ forthcoming debut album and always referred to them in glowing terms, this didn’t stop him from woundedly calling them “boring rich kids who can’t play for ahit anyways”. Whatever “ahit” is is anybody’s guess.

But yes, they (or “he”, at least) finally made it! Now, Lindsey is accompanied by a band featuring hastily recruited members of Danish punks Cola Freaks, who perform his songs with a proficiency and determination (and nervousness) which suggests a desperation to impress their new boss. After the group break their Irish silence with a fleeting bombardment of beautiful noise (the title track to 2006’s awesome ‘Blood Visions’), the crowd takes a deep breath (their last of the night) and greets the high octane fusion of melody and energy with the required amount of hip shaking, arm flailing, head banging and moshing.

Whelan’s seems to be on a tilt tonight, and level ground isn’t restored for the duration of the set. The milder tempo songs are injected with gallons of adrenaline, and even the appearance of an acoustic guitar doesn’t result in troubadourish fingerpicking, but fuzzed-up steeplechase strumming instead.

Worries about their often short shows are disaporated as Jay – “like a 140-pound baby with a bottle of vodka instead of a bottle of milk” (his own words) – storms through 17 gems including ‘Fading All Away’, ‘It Ain’t Gonna Save Me’ and the comparably epic ‘There Is No Sun’. Each song is introduced with a yell of “LET’S GO!” and concluded with the opening bars of the next choice cut. It’s all action, and – despite the fact that he’s a 29 year old man with a stagename suggesting otherwise – there’s nothing intellectually lacking or slow here.

Admittedly, Lindsey writes relatively simple tunes about stalking, killing and feeling like shit in an easily done (and arguably overdone) style. But by splashing cold water all over the face of the genre, he gives it a kind of rebirth and his work is made anthemic. When brought to a venue, and fuelled by whatever his destructive personality is fuelled by, his music generates pure electricity and leaves one in no doubt that there’s no show like a Jay show.

Filing out of the room tonight, proudly clutching their politically incorrect souvenir shirts, the more qualitative-minded members of the audience had just decided on their gig of the year.

Photos by Loreana Rushe.
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  • i didn’t know much of jay’s work before this performance but i have to say it was gig of the year for me too