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Jay Reatard

Watch Me Fall


Sep 11, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“Manic depression’s a frustrated mess” goes the infamous Jimi Hendrix lyric, and Memphis garage rocker Jay Lindsey, aka Jay Reatard, can certainly relate. The mania of his music belies the morose depression evinced in the lyrics throughout Watch Me Fall, his desperate pleas subverting the heady instrumental rush. Whether he’s matter-of-factly intoning, “All is lost, there is no hope” on the frantic fist-pumping opener “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me,” or confessing “I always play the fool,” on the byzantine synth surge of “I’m Watching You,” it’s as though the music was recorded during an amphetamine binge, and the lyrics were scrawled during the subsequent crash.

Reatard’s fortunately well-versed in the arcane vernacular of pop’s rich history, and he nods to the ‘80s Flying Nun roster on the lithe “Wounded,” while “Rotten Mind” finds him crooning, “I see myself crawling on the floor,” over an adrenalized Ramones-via-Buzzcocks power punk riot, before soberly admitting on the lurching chorus, “I don’t wanna be this way.”

It’s closer “There is No Sun” that best illustrates Reatard’s sheer songwriting brilliance, with a see-saw melody that’s a distant cousin to Guided By Voices’ “Mincer Ray,” and a sawing cello that channels the balladry of mid-period R.E.M.. As he laments over the resplendent jangle, “There is no sun,” it’s the pregnant pause before the breathless conclusion of “for me” that intimates just how wrecked he really is. But it’s all just a snapshot of the vicious cycle endemic to Reatard’s schizoid persona, chronicled here with wild-eyed alacrity. (www.jayreatard.com)

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