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Lo-fi indie darling Jay Reatard: media manipulator, or simply dense? 

In a climate in which the music "news" cycle continues to shrink exponentially, and blogs and news sites vie to present the best sound bite or video clip first, a decent musician who's also a notorious loose cannon (or plays one) is bound for success. Or at least buzz. And Jay Reatard -- lo-fi hero turned indie darling, Pitchfork favorite and Matador signee -- fits the bill.

At age 29, Reatard (born Jay Lindsey) is enjoying something of a second act. In the '90s, he recorded albums on his own as The Reatards, and in the early 2000s was part of The Lost Sounds. In 2006, he began the solo career that sent him up through the skeezy garage scene, to the doorstep of one of the biggest and most revered indie labels. 

Reatard's music is mainly catchy and raw. The new record, Watch Me Fall, is cleaner (or at least more produced) than some of his older output. But it preserves both the awkward angst with which he's made a name for himself and the incredibly simple and sensible pop structure he's long hung it upon.

It's undeniable, though, that beyond being a good songwriter, Jay Reatard is a media phenomenon. His exploits (the punch he delivered to a fan, captured for YouTube; the rant against his bandmates who quit, preserved and retweeted on Twitter) are almost those of an indie-level Jon and Kate, or Richard Heene. Whether Reatard is so clever as to intentionally keep the hype machine feeding on his outrageousness (a staple of punk rock, after all) or is so dense as to not think before he acts (or tweets) is a question that few can answer. He'd probably prefer to keep it that way. 

 

Jay Reatard with Kim Phuc. 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 23. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $12. 412-621-4900

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