Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall

[Matador; 2009]

While it is true that Jay Reatard’s second solo debut Watch Me Fall has a distinct garage rock style and sound to it, it doesn’t appeal as an accurate description. The twist is what he does to the sound – turning chunky guitar driven songs into tunes that kids soundtrack their summer to or even pick up their guitars and open up their garages and play to the neighborhood. Jay Reatard sounds like the voice of an age he never wants to give up (despite coming on 30), his voice still full of teenage angst and his subject matter still centered around girls, sex (or sexual desire) and how much life seems to fuck over the individual.

But age is never relative and Reatard makes a strong case for this. He sounds like your friend’s band that you will hype but really mean every good word. The songs are often short and catchy while simultaneously sounding as brash as previous singles such as “My Shadow”. But even when guitars distort on the likes of the outro to “Can’t Do It Anymore”, they never sound off-putting: in this song’s case, attention is held by my staccato guitar and drums until “Faking It” comes along instantly – so sudden in fact, when played together the latter sounds like a natural continuation.

Right from the start the listener is thrown into the chorus of “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me”, not even giving them a build up before showing his pessimistic adolescent look on life. By the time the album has run it half hour course, we are still given the same point of view with “There Is No Sun”. But the way it’s delivered, Reatard sounds almost triumphant, building a glorious wordless bridge into an extended chorus of the song’s title. Even though the majority of the songs here don’t hit the three minute mark, they still compact everything to offer sudden turns, deserved solos and charging builds.

And because it’s all put together so efficiently, it results in something so very easy to like. The short song length helps songs become familiar quickly along with the fact they are often riddled with simple choruses or codas (particularly the end of aforementioned opener “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me”). Even the darker tones of songs like “Nothing Now” offer insanely great melodies and arguably the best choruses here. But to call it dark is perhaps again a somewhat inaccurate description because the songs here, though pessimistic in the likes of lyrical content, are pop songs in various (and at times similar) forms. Plus that artwork really wouldn’t have you thinking there is something as gloriously sunny sounding as “I’m Watching You” here. But even as summer fades, Watch Me Fall can still stand as an album that can remind us of a great summer past, no matter how old we were.