After the release of his singles comp, Matador Singles ’08, last year, Jay Reatard (who was baptized Jay Lindsey) told anyone who would listen that he was going to make a kiwi-pop-influenced record, but it still seemed inconceivable that he would actually keep that promise. After all, the guy could probably do album upon album of two-minute punk tracks for the foreseeable future, and still make a decent living that no one would fault him for. Instead, he’s gone and flipped the script. Gone are the layers of fuzz, aggressive riffing, and songs about blood; in their place is Watch Me Fall, a barnstorming, kiwi-pop-delicate album that is Reatard’s best album-length statement to date.
First track “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” establishes Reatard’s new (musical) worldview on Watch Me Fall. It’s buoyed by strummy, mostly acoustic guitars, windmill drumming and a catchy hook that in the past Reatard would have buried in screams. Watch Me Fall, by and large, is a much softer record than Reatard’s solo debut, Blood Visions, but it fits the material better. The chorus for hater-killing fantasy “Rotten Mind” is infinitely more affecting when Reatard delivers the “I don’t wanna be in this world” line in a near coo as opposed to his jittery bark. Closer “There Is No Sun” is the best stoned-out garage-rock ballad this side of Black Lips (second best is Watch Me’s “I’m Watching You”) — the song’s wordless chorus provides the sun Reatard says his life is lacking. And there’s something strangely endearing in the way “Wounded” uses a bubblegum chorus to relay a message to stop “standing still,” like he expects kids to pogo along when he and his band trade “ba ba bas.”
Lyrically, it’s the same old Jay Reatard: As if the Shining-referencing cover and the song titles like “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” weren’t enough of an indication, dude still likes to get on about death. But it’s not just his death; it’s death to people who Reatard has decided deserve it (“Hang Them All,” the braying “Nothing Now” and “Rotten Mind”) and the death of eras or relationships (“Faking It” and “I Can’t Do it Anymore”).
That last one could serve as a mission statement in regard to Watch Me Fall. After months of promising a new and improved music that would leave behind the punk edifice we’ve all come to love, Reatard went out and recorded Watch Me Fall, an album where he confidently shakes off his past work and emerges with a great new sound in only 12 tracks.