Solo debuts aren’t supposed to be this good. Jay Reatard has been kicking around Memphis since a teen, starting in the 1990s with the dirty-word punk of The Reatards, and lately in the thrashy synth-centered Lost Sounds. The brilliant Blood Visions falls somewhere in between – rambunctious and roaring, jerking nervously all the way. Tons of highlights here – tons of them – hitting on just about every style that’s had the word “punk” thrown at it as an epithet. It adds up sounding closest to the not-quite-new-wave rock that bounced between ambitious indies and majors around 1980; it resembles the twisted naiveté of the era, before bands realized that building a hook around “I will kill you” was going to keep them off the airwaves.
Jay, of course, knows better. Naiveté went out with the Carter re-nomination, and somewhere along the way delusions of grandeur gave way to festivals of failure. Hence, he’s got no problem building a hook around “I will kill you.” He delivers it nonchalantly, in a stiff diction that sounds like an American imitating a Brit, or vice versa. Later, in robot cadence, he sings “Minus puppet man / in a garbage can / drinking piss from a jar.” He’s got no expectations. Kids in bands like the Rezillos or the Weirdos riffed on the uncharted territory of Patti or the Pistols; career suicide was the furthest thing from their minds. Twenty-five years later, Jay puts himself on the cover with blood dripping off his love handles. Getting stocked at the department store isn’t a consideration.