Jay Reatard gets 'wimpy,' rocks out with The Adverts' TV Smith 

"Have you ever liked a punk band? Then you'll like Jay Reatard." So observed one fan, trying to articulate the appeal of the Memphis garage musician. The claim is both a description of the music, which takes the punk of the '70s (and that music's '80s and '90s revivals) as its obvious influences, and a ringing endorsement—Reatard's songs encapsulate the high-speed, low-fidelity and flamboyantly dramatized bad moods that fans of the genre seek out. Touring in support of his latest album, Watch Me Fall, his three-piece band will offer audiences a chance to see the controlled chaos and ferocious energy of their live show.

The band (other members are bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes) most recently played a show at the Mercy Lounge in April 2008 that Reatard remembers as "the smallest...of the entire tour." In a telephone interview, he speculates that Nashville and Memphis seem "unsupportive when bands come to each other's cities—it's like there's this weird competition, but they're such drastically different scenes, I don't know what the competition would be about."

If Memphis-style raw garage rock hasn't found much of an audience in Nashville, it has elsewhere: Since the band signed to Matador Records last year, their music has gained a larger mainstream audience than ever before. Reatard's wall-of-guitar-sound approach hasn't changed drastically since his career began 10 years ago. But he had suggested that it might, observing in an interview with the music blog Turn It Down last October that he had been listening to what "I guess some people would call...twee music, more wimpy stuff" and "trying to inject that style with more energy."

On the phone now, Reatard admits that "I probably said that to try and confuse people." The claims about a softer style of music sprang from a desire to keep his new work "under tight wraps," and also, perhaps, to joke about the perceived wimpiness of Matador: "I'm on the same label as Belle and Sebastian."

Nevertheless, their recordings are more spacious and less frantically paced than their live shows, which Reatard says is by design: He comments that "I'm not purely interested in studio recording as documentation. There's plenty of people that record our show, they can document it that way." And he adds that the new record is "a natural progression if you've heard the singles" from the past two years.

If audiences are curious about his non-twee influences, one of them will be joining them on stage: TV Smith, co-founder of first-wave British punk band The Adverts. The earlier band's music, like Reatard's, gains its effect from a contrast between the songs' massive hooks and the minor-key paranoia of their sound. Smith currently performs and releases music as an acoustic guitarist; Reatard, who calls himself "a big Adverts fan," contacted him by email and suggested they tour together.

At press time the man and the band hadn't met in person—visa issues delayed Smith until July 2—but had worked out a plan for the show. "He's gonna do acoustic stuff, do what he does now, then play our set, do a little mini Adverts show at the end." Reatard expressed mild concern that audiences will be chagrined by non-electric guitar: "At first they might be like, 'Oh wow,' but I think if they give it a chance, they'll be like, 'Yeah, this is OK.' "

Email music@nashvillescene.com.


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