Apr 17

Film Review: Better Than Something

by Downtown Calgary · 0 comments

Jay Reatard may not be a household name, but his impact on independent music has made him a “record store” name. Someone who’s name instantly perks up ears in the right company, and can create an explosion of passionate  music conversation at the drop of the hat. For everyone else, Jay Reatard, might be known as just another angry long-haired punk-rocker, who’s live-fast-die-young attitude ultimately became his end. Better Than Something is a poetic look at the music and life of Jay Reatard, which like his music is fast, furious and full of soul.

Better Than Something is directed/edited by film maker team Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz. The doc uses posthumous interviews with friends and family members, as well as interviews with Jay shot before his death in 2010, and extensive concert footage from the decades of Reatard’s career. Playing in bands like The Reatards, Lost Sounds, and finally as a solo artist with a regular back-up band, Reatard became known as one of the most prolific musicians of his time. Releasing countless singles, album and EPs under any of his many band names, at a furious pace that had other bands feeling lazy.

Ultimately, a hard life in the less-than-affluent suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee and the rock-and-roll lifestyle lead Jay Reatard to a life that was at times, consumed by drug and alcohol abuse. While the topic of substance abuse was not dwelled upon (like many rock-docs tend to do) it becomes clear through the documentary that it was likely a contributing factor of his death. The documentary focused more on the work-aesthetic and musical output of this prolific musician. From basement punk-shows and record store appearances, to being on French or Dutch television for millions of viewers, Jay Reatard toured the globe playing music because it’s the only thing he knew how to do.

While I feel like the documentary is missing something I can’t quite put my finger on, I understand why the doc feels unfinished. The footage shot of Jay Reatard before his death was meant to be made in to another documentary, a documentary that’s focus and ending had shifted due to the early demise of this interesting and inspiring garage-rocker.


While Better Than Something won’t be showing again during the Calgary Underground Film Festival, you can check out the website for the film here, and if there is enough popularity, it may be brought back to screen at more theatres in Calgary. To keep up on arts and entertainment in Calgary, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Like our page on Facebook.

The Calgary Underground Film Festival runs until April 22nd, 2012, more information is available at their website.

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