Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall


The term "proper LP" annoys me.  I have no idea why.  I'm as much a fan of a great album as the next guy.  But when you've been working as long and as hard as Jay Reatard has, to me, it always seems to diminish the artist's work that he's done previously leading up to it.  Reatard's been killing it for quite some time now, and on a pretty kick-ass level.  The fact that this his first actual "album" is great and all, but it's not the dude's first rodeo.  

All things considered, it's on Watch Me Fall that Reatard takes the reigns and keeps the sound we all know by now, channeling his own songwriting with a sonic burst of instrumentation that would make any member of The Replacements proud.  And make no mistake about it, there's some real stand-out tracks here, ones that truly make you believe that there's some great things on the horizon for Reatard if he chooses to go in that direction.  

Before I Was Caught follows the intro track, and it's a solid song to get things moving for the rest of the album.   It almost seems like Reatard's telling all of us what his life would be like if he wasn't recording an actual album at this point, and if that's even a good thing.  "I'm laying alone and bed....I try to squeeze out a single thought/But than I fall, I fall asleep/and dream about before I was caught."  Hell, the album title is a pretty obvious invitation to the fact that he knew having to record this was just a matter of time.

The intro to to Can't Do It Anymore sounds like something off a Deep Purple album before it dives right into the tempo that we're already accustomed by now.  It gives way to one hell of a scorcher in Faking It, where Reatard takes us through a sub-2 minute ass kicker.  And that leads us into I'm Watching You.  It's a song about dating a chick that simply isn't that great, but acts like she is and attempts to treat you like dirt before you realize that she's out of her fucking mind; and it's a great song.  "I'm watching you, and all the things you do/To me, you see, you never were too cool/To me, you see, I always play the fool for you."  It's followed up by another great track, Wounded, where Reatard picks things back up, but pays enough mind to the previous track to not do it too much.  The whole album is sequenced perfectly, but it really stands out in these two tracks back to back.

Later on, My Reality gives us a possible glimpse of what he's aiming for in the future.  It has some simple layering behind a great riff, with an echoed chorus in front of a basic drum roll that really sounds fantastic.  I don't know if Reatard was trying to channel Paul Westerberg or not throughout a lot of this album, but he definitely does, and it definitely works.  

The album ends with, what I personally believe, Reatard's greatest track as an artist yet.  There Is No Sun has a great oldies-esque drum beat behind it, with a guitar riff to match.  "The only thing you'll remember/Is you'll only whisper to me."  It ends with some distortion and a violin taking us away from the track, which leaves you with complete satisfaction.  It really is just a beautiful song and a masterful way to close out a great full-length debut, and it's almost as if Reatard's starting to realize his own potential after figuring it out over the first 11 tracks.  

There's some minor flaws here and there.  Things do get repetitive time to time, and Reatard's bluntness can get a tad bland sometimes.  Especially since it's so obvious how talented the guy is musically by listening to something like this.  It just feels like he has something so much greater in him than just a regular alternative/punk record.  Sometimes you come across an album that makes you just think; "I wonder what this guy could put out if he really put it all together one day."  This is one of those albums.  The closing track, due to how good it is, only reinforces this belief.

But that's what's so awesome about listening to Reatard.  He simply doesn't give a shit, and maybe that's what rock needs right now.  Whenever I'm done listening to his music, I always feel like smoking cigarettes and telling some random person to fuck off.  And I don't even smoke.  One thing's for sure, you won't be hearing him on your larger radio stations any time soon, or seeing any of these tracks in one of HBO's dramatic commercials where they're advertising all their shows with some obscure track from a semi-popular band.  I guess that, for now, we should just be happy that minds like his exist out there.  The ones that aren't afraid to just pick up a guitar and say "let's do this," regardless of whether it's for a LP or not.  And  I think Reatard's OK with being that type of guy right now; I sure as hell know I am.

Grade - A-

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