Review Summary: The Memphis punk zigzags across genres and predictions.
No story is as run-of-the-mill and traditional as Jay Reatard's. It's not unheard of to see a couple of sixteen-year-olds disrupting the neighborhood with a garage punk band crashing on cymbals, yelling at fast speeds, and thrashing on fuzzy guitars. Sometimes fortune sweeps you up and you experience fame at an early age. Jay was set to go on tour at the ripe age of eighteen with his band, The Reatards, and rioted audiences everywhere. Through many side projects, Jay was able to escape the pressures of home and drown himself in music, placing himself in the chambers in the heart of punk.
That was about half his life ago. Approaching his 30th birthday, Jay is on his own releasing distorted tunes for those who love a good riot and disturbance. Of course you can't do that without greasy long hair and a flying V strapped around your body. For his sophomore album, Watch Me Fall
, the grown-up southern punk widens his vision to a more indie rock/pop inhabited area - proving to his listeners that he's grown out of being just another teenage Reatard.
Despite his gothic and sullen look on the cover, Jay is still as bouncy as ever. "It Ain't Gonna Save Me" marks the start of the record's journey of revision which has him alternating bright choruses and storytelling verses of punk's favorite themes: bad luck and apathy. "Then a cloud came in the sky/It *** on me, I don't know why
" - The music sounds to be in such good spirit that it's actually hard to take his misfortunes seriously. Nonetheless it's a great, catchy opener. You shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that the inclusion of poppy hooks means the replacing of Jay's usual turbulence and frenzy. If anything, this kind of welcoming breeds not only accessibility and creativity, but the tools he needed to polish his sound. "Can't Do It Anymore" incites both balmy and bitter elements by belting out stop-and-go punk beats for the title line to be admitted over before ending with a noisy guitar solo where "Faking It" spazzes out for the verses and then smoothes out for "You faked it all away...
" Both songs conclude in under two minutes but play their parts loudly and forcefully.
It seems whenever a song takes a break from being rowdy, it flips over to being melodic (this idea is jampacked in the harmonious and erratic "Wounded"). Trying to ween himself off the drudgeful schtick of 'three string power chords in 4/4', Reatard learns and leans more on the emotional side of his works. Putting his investment in genre-expansion to good use, he sings over muted guitars, "You have your whole life...to..think things over...
" in the cryptic and haunting "Nothing Now". It's certainly a drastic change in tone from anything else we've heard so far and as brooding as it is, it comes to be oddly refreshing.
"I'm Watching You" may even further prove Jay's newly acquired qualification for straying from the constant uptempo'd clamor. The delicate, harmless song is the most relaxed one yet out of Reatard's arsenal. It amply frames his versatility and displays the flexibility of a change-hungry artist.
If you were to take a random track from Reatard's debut album, Blood Visions
and asked him to develop the song a little more, you'd have "Hang Them All". The first half sounds anarchic riding in with fast snare drum rolls until breaking off into a more musically centered ditty juxtaposed by a time change. It pays off to experiment, apparently, because something truly classic may be hinted here. If the elements of this song were even more nurtured and spread out throughout the record - like the dramatic closer "There Is No Sun" demonstrates duly by filling its time with an acoustic guitar, horns, and crescendos - and we'd have one hell of an outstanding album.
Watch Me Fall
is Jay keeping the impressive moments on the move for now. Only three songs on the record get close to reaching the four minute mark. This, though, is what makes it such an absorbing album - short and sweet. The songs exceed in being both stylishly original and tighter than his previous works. This makes it so easy to replay the album over and over. It has double the chance to hook you taking the best out of pop and the best out of punk without the need of painless repetition. For someone stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time, Watch Me Fall
is a definite success. While he openly takes on a softer side, Reatard has evolved as a songwriter and an artist. I would consider this to be an improvement from Blood Visions
and could possibly be the threshold for an even greater take on this new sound. What's fun for us is progress for Jay.