Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall

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Rating: ★★★★½

Jay Reatard, the supposed bad boy of garage rock, returns this year with his new album, Watch Me Fall. Unlike his last few releases, these are sets of new songs, which show a similarly new side to the band.  While Bloodvisions was fueled by a sense of madness and fury, here we find a more subdued effort; it shows that Jay Reatard is more than just a one trick pony, and the group is destined to go beyond the stereotypical garage sounds.

When the record opens with “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” we meet the same Jay Lindsey we’ve known for years.  Energized and blasting his guitar licks as quickly as he can, speeding furiously towards the end of the song. Oddly, it’s one of the few songs of this set that offers us a glimpse at the garage-punk element of Jay Reatard, as the rest of the record seems to veer into the realms of garage-tinged power-pop.

“Before I Was Caught” is a rime example of the new direction, and let’s say it, the softer side, of the band.  Sure, the guitar is still chugging along, but it’s not done with the same intensity as it’s been done in the past, which isn’t a bad thing in the least bit. Sure, the high-pitched yelp of Lindsey comes into play here, but his delivery outside of the chorus demonstrates a more relaxed approach to songwriting.

Coming across a song like “Can’t Do It Anymore” yet again portrays a poppier world for the group, even with the excruciating feedback in the midst of the song, the overall tone of the song is a bit more uplifting, though the lyrics might not portray the exact same sentiment.  You can pile this on to the chorus of “Faking It,” which again shows a Lindsey who isn’t screaming with force in the face of his listeners.  Finally, we’re presented with a likable attitude, one that is more endearing to a multitude of listeners in contrast to the band as of a short bit ago.

We even find ourselves visiting the land of balladry in this collection of songs.  “I’m Watching You” is a perfect gem of power-pop goodness, and although there is some sonic exploration as guitars meaner mid-song, it still encompasses an overwhelming feeling of a strong ballad. You can place such moments right alongside the album’s closer, “A Whisper (There is No Sun).”  It’s probably one of the most accessible songs in the Jay Reatard collection to this point, and despite partially indecipherable lyrics, you still can gather the emotion from this song.

To sum it all up, we have a new band here, or almost.  There’s a bit of calling out, there’s a bit of remorse, but overall, there is a shift in the direction of the songwriting, ultimately making the album much more rewarding to listeners than anything that has preceded the group.  Watch Me Fall is a gem of power-pop stirred inside a garage smoothie, and surely worthy of accolades and adoration.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/12-there-is-no-sun.mp3]

Download: Jay Reatard – A Whisper (There is No Sun) [MP3]

Jay Reatard – Matador Singles ’08

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Surprisingly, Jay Reatard is releasing all the songs off of his latest seven inch series on Matador Records in an easy to use CD format, not to mention the fact that you will actually be able to get your hands on this compilation, rather than bidding the hundereds of dollars required to acquire the 7 inches.

Okay, so there might be some bias in that first paragraph, but now that the CD version of the 7 inches has been made available, does it live up to the adoration for those Jay Reatard fans out there?  Yes, and no.

Opening the album with “See/Saw” is a good choice, as it is one of the two best songs on the entire collection.  It’s full of that classic pop sensibiliity that the band incorporates into their garage-punk sound.  It’s a good introduction to the collection–but the band has to step it up from here in order to win over the listener on this compilation.

But, the band doesn’t really go much further on the album, aside from “Always Wanting More,” which is one of the better songs the band has created. It’s easily the most pop driven effort that you will find here; this is the best formula for creativity with concerns to Jay Reatard.

Aside from those two highlights, there isn’t a lot of quality offered on the rest of the complilation. Sure, you get a cover of Deerhunter‘s “Fluorescent Grey,” but even that isn’t the most remarkable of covers.  There are also a lot of flaws, such as the quality of the vocals.  It seems that the lo-fi recording process could have been a little more fleshed out here.  Sure, it’s got that 7 inch quality, but is that what you want on CD?  It’s an entirely different medium, and the vocals sound nothing at all like they did on Bloodvisions.

So at the end of the album, you have to judge the compilation as one would judge a complete album.  As far as complete albums go, most will find that its a fairly poor effort.  Some extreme high points, but nothing as consistent as the band’s last full length.  In fact, you can find lower moments here, then anywhere else in the band’s catalogue (extended and as Jay Reatard).  It seems that as prolific as this man has become, that it might do him well to take a break.  He might get more from spending a little time in the studio writing and mixing, and we, the listeners, might get more as well.

Still, as a different medium, as the collection was orginally intended and produced, it was pretty glorious; this despite the fact that various record stores–I’m looking at you Waterloo–hoarded the 7 inches for their employees, or even for eBay sales, which will cost you two arms and a knee-cap to get the final 7 inch.  So as compilation it fails, other than providing you with an easily transferable format to carry with you, but as a collection of 7 inches, go Jay Reatard!

Jay Reatard – Singles 06-07

Rating: ★★★½ ·

About a year ago I stumbled into Jay Reatard, well, his record, Bloodvisions. Since that day I have eaten up every piece of news I can find on the man and his band. Out of nowhere news hit me that In The Red Records would be releasing a compilation of all his old singles from various 7″s. I don’t have the money to bid for such things on eBay, so I opted for the more economical solution, buying this here compilation.

The compilation is seventeen new–well, new to me–songs, but you need to examine the tracklist first. The listing includes four different versions of songs that made their way onto Bloodvisions. The songs that might sound familiar to you are “Bloodvisions,” “Oh Its Such a Shame,”Turning Blue,” and “It’s So Easy.” You will also find that the song “Haunting You” from this very compilation sounds really familiar. In fact, if you changed the name to “Nightmares,” you would already have this song. So, you have 12 new songs, but this is all accompanied by a DVD featuring 4 live shows, which are all worth the your viewing.

Do these singles compare to the greatness of the full length? I think that depends on what exactly you are looking at when you listen to this album. Is this your first Jay Reatard experience? If so, then you might find this unique blend of lo-fi garage rock with perfect melodies simply refreshing. It’s hard not to find something to like with this band.

However, if you have previous Jay Reatard experience, you might find this collection of songs kind of a miss. The production quality is the first thing that I noticed that was different. It just didn’t pack the same punch that Bloodvisions brought you. The vocals sometimes appear more muddled than usual. Then you come to the older versions of the songs on Bloodvisions and the only one that really surpasses or equals the newer version is “Haunting You,” which was changed to “Nightmares.”

There are some interesting new twists, such as the keyboard infused “Another Person,” which brings in the bouncy melodies that typically adorn a Jay Reatard song. Also, the bluesy “Hammer I Miss You” is also an interesting touch.

All in all, this is a worthy collection for either listener, Jay Reatard newcomer or diehard. As the newcomer, you get a proper introduction to the rock stylings of Jay Reatard, which we all know is necessary when few bands are making solid rock music nowadays. For the diehard, you get to look into the past of one of your favorites. This album is really a stepping stone for any and all listeners.