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Quick Spin: Review of Jay Reatard's Album "Watch Me Fall"

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WATCH ME FALL

Jay Reatard

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For the last three years, Memphis workaholic Jay Reatard has provided a wonderful jolt in an era of plodding indie rock. Originally specializing in abrasive tributes to the quick and nasty singles that scarred pop when '70s punk exploded, Reatard has slowly stretched out and smartened up, bringing in power pop and the enjoyably ersatz side of psychedelia.

The new "Watch Me Fall" strips even more grime from the guitars while keeping Reatard's one-take urgency. "It Ain't Gonna Save Me" clatters with unruly energy, like the best off-the-cuff punk gems. But he leaves out the feedback that he surely would have included in the past, making the tune's hook even more inescapable. It's practically begging for a remix with added bubble-gum hand claps.

The unashamedly '60s strum and Reatard's wistfully wounded vocal make "I'm Watching You" come off like the cuddly, brokenhearted cousin of the suburban pedal abusers of ancient garage rock. "Wounded" is a ragged vision of classic AM radio pop, with a bouncy "ba ba ba" break that's pure post-British invasion. And Reatard's charmingly affected U.K. vocal inflections, from Cockney sneer to twee whine, have become even more pronounced.

Old fans needn't worry: Reatard can still torture guitars with the best. The "solo" on "Can't Do It Anymore" sounds like he's scraping his strings clean with unclipped fingernails. Even with his move away from unadorned bashing and shrieking, Reatard remembers you can go for a listener's throat even while punching his nostalgia button.

-- Jess Harvell

DOWNLOAD THESE: "It Ain't Gonna Save Me," "Hang Them All"


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