Album review: Jay Reatard – ‘Watch Me Fall’

Garage rock's prolific enfant terrible gets even meaner and leaner

As he screws up his face into a mask of fugly on the cover of his latest LP, you get the sense that [a]Jay Reatard[/a] was the kind of kid who ruined all his family photos. Once inside, you get the sense that he ruined everything else too. Thought he was misanthropic before? Wait ’til you see what he’s done for an encore. His first words are, “It ain’t gonna save me”, he wants to “hang them all”, he moans about stewing around his own head, girls fuck him off, he’s “faking it”, he “can’t do it any more”. Sucks, dude.

But even as he’s marinading in despair, the Reatard’s redeeming himself by dosing up on melody. If his 2006 ‘debut’ (give or take 20 side-projects) ‘Blood Visions’ was a sonic cosh to the back of the head – short sharp stabs of punk energy drowning in dissonance – then ‘Watch Me Fall’ finds him with space to show off the full genius of his songwriting, turning the fuzz down, the jangle up and taking the (for him) radical decision to throw in violins and even some pianos. A lot has been made of the influence of Kiwi indie-pop label flying nun, but there’s a more obvious daddy here in those other melodic misanthropes – the Buzzcocks. In fact he’s turned so Anglo-punk that Jay sometimes sounds like he’s pursing his lips into a Dick Van Reatard-style English accent.

With songs rarely topping three minutes, and clocking in at half an hour over 12 tracks, ‘Watch Me Fall’ is a taut, sinewy masterclass. Only at the end – ‘A Whisper (There Is No Sun)’ – does he step away from the garage, turning the title’s nihilistic mantra into something chest-burstingly lovely, even radiantly optimistic. Natural contrarians are fuckers like that. Fantastic fuckers.

Gavin Haynes

Click here to get your copy of Jay Reatard’s ‘Watch Me Fall’ from the Rough Trade shop.

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