Rating: 7 / Format: CD/LP / Label: Matador
Whether internet punk darling Jay Reatard is heading down the dreaded road of ‘maturity’ is as yet unclear. New album Watch Me Fall finds him less overtly aggressive than on past records: gone is the energising comedy-horror of past LP Blood Visions, replaced with a more subdued, though arguably no less disconcerting, mood.
‘I’m Watching You’ (presumably the same song that was missing from review copies of Matador Singles ’08 [It is, but it’s a different mix – Ed]), rather than breathlessly ripping through frantic chords, is positively jolly in its hazy 60s, via Inspiral Carpets’ organ-indie, pastiche. This just makes his singing "I’m watching you, and everything you do" that bit weirder. You do get the occasional ‘Hang Them All’, which captures the same brutalist pop charm of last year’s 7" ‘See/Saw’ with ease, but generally Watch Me Fall is about half the tempo of Blood Visions, with lighter guitars that fit the relative levity of these songs. In fact, Reatard’s singing’s now oddly reminiscent of Suede’s Brett Anderson, especially on ‘I’m Watching You’ and ‘Can’t Do It Anymore’. If this is a conscious effort to distance himself from the rapidly expanding throng of lo-fi trust punx then Jay’s too be commended – he’s far more imaginative than the fuzz-drenched muppets he’s leaving in his wake.
‘Rotten Mind’ is a striking pop gem, and its juxtaposition with the sinister introduction of ‘Nothing New’ displays a sense of dynamic structure that would justify this evolution in the Reatard sound. But there’s something missing. It’s not that Reatard needs to bludgeon in order to be effective, but you get the sense there’s a bit of an identity crisis going on – like Andrew WK, you’re happy for him to leave the mosh pit, but his first steps out are slightly shaky. Still, as a portent of things to come, Watch Me Fall is heartening: it’s more varied than his singles collections, it’s just not quite the killer album Matador may have been hoping for.