Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall

Kyle Ellison 19/08/2009

Rating: 4.5/5

It is easy to criticise Jay Reatard's progression from the fiercely independent garage label, In the Red, to the comparatively giant indie-rock label, Matador. On the surface Reatard's music, once scuzzy and unrelenting, has become easier on the ear as the edges have been softened, the song lengths made more generic and there's even the inclusion of songs that sound dangerously like traditional ballads. But signing to a larger label also comes with unquestionable benefits. For starters there's improved distribution, which is especially useful in keeping up with an artist who has supposedly released over 30 records in the last 10 years. After a nicely cobbled together singles compilation last year, however, it seems as though Jay Reatard is ready to settle down and take some time giving new album Watch Me Fall the nurturing and promotion it deserves.

Because say what you want about Reatard's 'softer' or more 'accessible' sound, this is a gem of pop record. The word 'pop' is banded around, and probably overused, every time a formerly noisy band lightens up a bit, but in this case it's actually a useful description. Wounded, for example, opens with a chorus of 'ba-ba-ba-ba' backing vocals and acoustic guitars that seem a million miles away from the likes of Greed, Money, Useless Children. This isn't just a one off pop smash to help sell a few records either, almost every song could quite easily be a single as the album is crammed with enough hooks to fill a cloakroom. While many of these stem from Jay's guitar playing, the vocals too, are higher in the mix than they've ever been, making the album ripe for singing along.

Die hard fans might not have expected such a seismic shift in style, but would have to be extremely stubborn not to be seduced by Reatard's new found sense of melody. Infectious first single, and album opener, It Ain't Gonna Save Me is a great example of this, combining Jay's familiar yelp with a perfectly picked guitar line that propels the song to its finish. The songs video sets the scene of a happy children's party disrupted by Reatard with a horde of water balloons, which perhaps reflects the contrast within the album itself. While on the surface Watch Me Fall
In regards to the aforementioned slower songs, there's a reworking of I'm Watching You from the singles collection, and also the albums closer, cutely titled, There Is No Sun. The latter is perhaps Reatard's most 'grown up' effort to date, yet as ever bears the stamp of Reatard's unique brand of cynicism. This is crucial, as despite the mutterings about a change in direction, Watch Me Fall is all the better for it, yet still unmistakably Jay Reatard.

Release date: 17/08/2009