Okay… okay, so I’m a dope who gets off on totally rebelling against those evil wanna-be hipsters propelling the idea of The Next Big Thing in left-of-the-middle rock and roll. I prefer to sit in a warm bath of ignorance than claim allegiance to what I see as the gentrification of slightly-underground Rock and Roll. I’m a dickhead for doing so, but I have my own self-imposed, self-defined musical-related morals and I’m generally committed to sticking with ’em, because lads, they really haven’t done too badly so far. No fads, no phonies, no time-wasters.
The only slight downside to this whole covenant is sometimes… sometimes I can be a bit late to the game. Something I can live with. Jay Reatard is one of those names I’ve seen around A LOT over the last few years but avoided for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because of the stance I attempted to articulate above. True, and kinda lame. I guess that certain mentions of an act in certain circles or music publications is enough to turn me off on the spot. Reason number two was the man’s name. Yeah, I avoided Jay Reatard because the name conjured images of a power-punk group with Misfit patches sewn on cut-up black denim jackets and shoddily dyed neo-nuclear green hair.
Music lovers, despite the Portrait of an Ignoramus I’ve just painted of myself, I’m not as dismissive or as superficial as I may sound. There’s just so much music out there to discover, there has to be some kind of discretionary method in place.
Anyway, I do digress. Point of this story is I’m a Jay Reatard virgin, and his newest output, Watch Me Fall is my first aural introduction. This album is a helium-filled, hyperactive musical candy bar. The songs are short, sweet, easy to swallow and extremely kind to the ears. Throughout the collection of twelve 2-3 minute ditties runs a strong Mother Country influence. It changes from song to song – Before I Was Caught embraces 70s glam, with Reatard adopting a slightly accented vocal. Man of Steel takes the glam of the previous track and breaks out the glitter; it’s The Libertines if they were sparkly. A delectable mix. The chorus is so freaking catchy, engulfed in this Ziggy Stardust-esque guitar line.
Can’t Do It Anymore is a perfect example of the album’s relentless hyperactivity. Each song on Watch Me Fall feels as if it’s playing at 33 1/3 RPM. And it’s great. Through it Reatard’s garage-punk origins seep through. I’ve got the impression though that despite where he began, Jay Reatard isn’t one for letting labels stick. The beginnings may be slightly apparent, but this isn’t common, regurgitated, homogenised garage and/or punk.
The fifth track, Faking It is another joyous, pompous, give-me-more three minutes of aural show-ponying. An electrified Violent Femmes verse is followed by a wonderful sing-along chorus. May I add, that if I were writing this review live as I was listening to the album, it’s here I’d state I’m a complete Jay Reatard convert.
Songs such as I’m Watching You maintain the general fast motion theme, but introduce a new sensory trigger. Does this one remind anyone of the Flaming Lips a bit? A very solid acoustic guitar thum-thum-thum’s, keeping tempo, while a moogy organ line sits warmly in the background. Jay’s voice becomes reminiscent of Wayne Coyne’s; high and whiney and totally, magically psychedelic – soaked with more of that glitter. Alone, these components are satisfying, but a Zinner-y guitar loaded with reverb permeates through, giving the song just the perfect tinge of darkness.
Nothing Now is the ultimate homage to the glam rock sound running through. Back is the faux-British accent. It’s accompanied by a falsetto chorus, self-assuredly reveling in someone else’s regrets and procrastinations.
Jay Reatard’s second solo album, Watch Me Fall is encapsulating. Running at a total of around half an hour, each song on this album is concise and catchy, but more so, they’re infectiously energising. Every track plays like a shot of strong coffee – causing the bones to jump and the feet to tap unwillingly. There’s a mirth of melody here, enveloped with an innocent sweetness. Most of all, it’s fun but it’s not hollow. Watch Me Fall might whizz by, but the maturity contained in those three minute ditties means they’ll stick with you for a lot longer than you’d expect.