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Reviewed for FasterLouder.
Matador Singles ‘08 was a great introduction to Jay Reatard’s schizophrenic pop punk songs. With that album he compiled his string of limited edition 7”s, a great marketing move by Reatard and his new label and a sign of the increasing desire of music fans to acquire physical items of music from their favourite artists.
Following on from the singles collection (a brilliant album regardless of the compilation aspect) is Watch Me Fall, a nervous and paranoid batch of songs that grabs Reatard’s pop dalliance and takes it even further into effervescent and catchy melodic territory. The clean production and tight playing make this his most polished effort to date and sees him reaching a new level of writing.
Matador Singles ‘08 drew comparison with Flying Nun’s golden indie era of the 80s. That influence continues here but it is less obvious and it appears as an undercurrent rather than a tribute. Reatard has spoken of his respect for New Zealand’s Chris Knox and like Knox, who emerged from punk into a more melodic damaged pop realm with Toy Love, Reatard too has moved on from snotty punk to a cleaner sound. In his singing style he even sounds similar to both Knox and current Kiwis The Mint Chicks, especially on songs like ‘Man Of Steel’ and ‘Faking It’.
From the cover art of a freezing and troubled looking Reatard to the lyrics of the songs, there is a strong theme of disconnection and paranoia throughout the album. Perhaps that was the reason for including a reworked ‘I’m Watching You’ (from Matador Singles 08) with its tale of the fallout from a doomed relationship. Elsewhere he sings “I don’t want to be this way” (‘Rotten Mind’) and “Tired and lonely with no-one to blame” (‘It Ain’t Gonna Save Me’). You get the sense though that this isn’t a cry for help by a despondent pessimist but rather it is the sound of someone tackling their emotions, sweeping aside the shit and moving forward.
On ‘Before I Was Caught’ he begins with a sound like Generation X before the song is chopped up with his trademark syncopated voice and rapid fire drums. Elsewhere the primitive catchiness of Buzzcocks inhabits many of the songs and on ‘Wounded’ he creates a great J. Mascis acoustic guitar feel amongst the bubblegum buzz.
Watch Me Fall ends on a lovely note with ‘There Is No Sun’ where he pulls back the frantic strumming and layers the music with a warmer choir of guitars, softer vocals and a droning cello. It shows that he isn’t just a one trick pony and that his compositional skills are improving with every release, all the more impressive when you read that he played virtually all of the instruments on the album.
Reatard isn’t sitting back on his laurels, satisfied with a relatively small cult following. He is moving forward, writing, recording and touring while the music and motivation is still burning bright. With songs this catchy he would be a chart topping pop star in a parallel world. One wonders if the album title is a sly dig at the inevitable backlash Reatard will suffer from those who prefer his noisy earlier sound. For now he will be gathering a much large audience as they catch on to the irresistible hooks on Watch Me Fall.