“I take myself very seriously, hence my name.”
– Jay Reatard
In Memphis Tennessee, faced with poverty, drugs and monumental misunderstanding, Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr tore through life on his own terms. For Lindsey, who took the stage name Jay Reatard, it wasn’t about just being loud or mosh pits. His music was about paving a trail of expression and writing his own history. Arguably, he knew his time was nearing an end.
On December 18th, 2012 the film Better Than Something: Jay Reatard by Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz, will be released for the first time on DVD. The 91 minute documentary dives, intimately, into the mind of Reatard via interviews with family, friends, colleagues and plenty from Reatard himself.
The documentary formed around an extensive interview with Reatard. His narrative touches a little of every part of his 29 year old life. Beginning with his inspirations, he speaks to his appreciation for Elvis as “less as a man and more of an idea,” but preferred Roy Orbison’s vocals. He reaches into honesty explaining that “If I hadn’t found music, I would be a petty criminal” and how growing up he was just “Playing House,” that if he was “unhappy, in a situation, [he would] have to destroy it until it doesn’t exist anymore.” The torment and anguish of being the misconceived brilliant mind he was weighed heavily on Reatard and Better Than Something does a great job of capturing this truth.
Better Than Something: Jay Reatard is more than just some documentary made about some loud, obnoxious musician who is now gone. It is an intimate view that really should be seen by all. It does not martyr Reatard it is, instead, a glimpse into one of the most brilliant examples of musical genius I may have ever seen. Hammond and Markiewicz capture Reatard as more of a friend-on-friend, than a formal interview by splicing together relevant footage and keeping you attentive the whole way through. It is not just about the man himself, but the power of music and how the world is quick to judge, which often leads to misunderstanding.
Jay Reatard called one of his best friends on his 28th birthday to congratulate himself for not joining the “27 Club.” His music was his legacy, never wanting to be a rock musician because they are “bums”; he knew he had to leave a trail of his life before his time ran out; which did, all too soon. I could sit here and simply quote brilliant lines from the brief insight we have in the form of this film, but I’d rather leave you with two thoughts. Firstly, someone who can see “Acoustic guitar as an aesthetic terrorism toward Punk Rockers” and who was Jim Morrison meets Elvis, who partied too hard with the Sex Pistols, is not a plague on our society, or even a poor excuse for a human being, they are music. Secondly, regardless of your musical preference, if you have an ounce of respect of the musical process or even for those who live music, see this film; you’ll be a better person for it. It releases in a DVD/LP/collector’s book bundle by Factory 25 on December 18, 2012.
Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr/Jay Reatard
May 1, 1980 – January 13, 2010