Monday, August 17, 2009
Album: Watch Me Fall
Rating: ******* (7/10)
If Watch Me Fall were the first thing I'd heard of Jay Reatard, it would be pretty mindblowing. The album is a series of top-notch lo-fi pop songs, in that rare vein of lo-fi pop that isn't wussy. Among the recent explosion of lo-fi/noise pop/noise punk bands, Reatard certainly numbers among the best songwriters out there.
Also in comparison to that crowd (Wavves, Times New Viking, Kurt Vile, Blank Dogs, etc.), he's not the lowest fi, nor the noisiest. His music is aggressive and at times intentionally hard to swallow, but sonically, it's palatable. The more challenging elements are Reatard's vocal delivery and the album's ornery subject matter. He doesn't have the air of cool that many recent lo-fiers cultivate, and the vulnerability he achieves in his music is at once refreshing and alarming after a slew of detached albums in the genre.
Where Watch Me Fall disappoints is its failure to step beyond the boundaries of earlier Reatard releases. Though the album features some of Reatard's best songs, it's ultimately not a step forward. We could all use more good songs like these, but it's hard to get excited about an album that sounds so familiar, even if it also sounds this good.
The record opens strongly with the forward, melodic punk of "It Ain't Gonna Save Me." The mid-disc highlight is "I'm Watching You," which takes the tempo down just a notch to open up the sound and make the composition one of Reatard's largest. Other songs, like "Rotten Mind" and "There Is No Sun" showcase the songwriter's signature negativity as charmingly as ever (and that's not sarcastic).
Watch Me Fall is a solid and enjoyable album and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Reatard's 2008 Matador Singles compilation (which is the best place for new listeners to start). Just don't get your hopes up that he'll break new ground. Then again, the old ground covered is pretty damn good.