Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The West Georgian: Review of Jay Reatard's new album

Edit: Notice how I failed to mention the name of the album in the actual article. Epic fail, as the kids say.
Artist: Jay Reatard
Title: Watch Me Fall
Label: Matador Records
Release date: August 2009

Memphis songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jay Reatard explores new grounds with this, his second full-length album and his first since signing with indie giant Matador Records.

Reatard, whose real name is Jay Lindsey, has churned out a lot of great music since he was a teenager with bands like The Angry Angles, Terror Visions and The Final Solutions, and since 2005 he has focused on solo efforts which have gotten him some international acclaim and a spot alongside The Black Lips and King Khan on top of the punk and garage rock world.

On his newest album, Reatard combines nihilistic lyrics with some new musical influences, ranging from the heavy use of an acoustic guitar to his obvious infatuation with the Kiwi pop sounds of Flying Nun Records. The beauty of Reatard bringing in influences like kiwi pop is his fans are now likely to track down music by bands like The Tall Dwarfs. It’s the kind of shared discovery fans of The Clash likely participated in back in 1979.

For those who are unfamiliar with kiwi pop, it is New Zealand rock music that, unlike The Flight of the Concords, is original and entertaining.

The opener, “It Ain’t Going to Save Me,” should leave no doubt that Jay can still crank out songs as good as earlier singles and his fantastic “Blood Visions” LP.

This one is, minus a few swear words, radio ready, and the official music video features an edited version with no swearing and the keyboard parts cut out toward the end of the song. Too bad the sheep running the record industry do not see this golden platter in front of them, as they, like some of the record buying public, need to be told what is cool.

After that, the album never goes down the drain completely, but no other song is quite as good as “It Ain’t Going to Save Me.”

That’s not to say there are no gems among the other tracks. Two songs later, “Man of Steel” brings some bizarre hyperactive folk-pop experiment to the table, and it is followed by “Can’t Do It Anymore,” which is highlighted by a screaming guitar. It’s like Jay took what made Peter Frampton famous and made it punk.

There are other strange brews worth a listen like “Faking It,” which completely reverses the pop tradition of mellow verses and chant-along choruses.

Another keeper is “I’m Watching You,” which sounds like a cross between classic Stiff Records powerpop (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds, etc.) and the tropical sounds of artists like Atlanta singer-songwriter Adron.

The b-side of this album is much darker, with lyrics like “There’s nothing to look forward to/but the people who quit” from “Nothing Now” and gloomy song titles like “Hang Them All” and “There is No Sun.”

The brightest spot of the b-side is “Rotten Mind,” which is fun if only because when Jay says the name of the album during the song it reminds me of the Family Guy sketch where Peter Griffin is amused whenever he hears the name of a movie during the film’s dialogue. Yeah, I’m a television sheep and got that “this is cool” memo.

The gloominess of this album surely reflects something deep inside Jay that drove him to write this batch of less than upbeat songs. Possibly it is the pressures of being one of the most visible artists in the world who does more than churn out manufactured anger?

Regardless of why Jay put out this album, it’s worth a listen. It’s not quite as good as “Blood Visions,” but if you skip this one you may miss out on discovering along with Jay music we ignorantly overlooked as punk kids.

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