jay-reatard-watch-me-fallWatch Me Fall is Jay Reatard’s first official album for new label Matador, last year he released a singles compilation with them, and it marks a the end of a transition which started with that compilation. The punk sound of previous albums has mostly disappeared now, on Watch Me Fall he makes indie pop. By which I mean he has fantastically catchy choruses, acoustic guitars where an electric might’ve been used, an organ (on ‘I’m Watching You’), strings (!) on one song (‘There Is No Sun’), and softer vocals (though not soft by any means, there’s nothing like ‘No Time’ off of the ’08 comp.). It’s mostly a very buoyant album, definitely poppy, with just the slightest hint of that insistent punk edge showing through to add zest to the songs.The production tricks are all there still, multiple tracked guitars (often an electric playing lead on top, with strummed acoustics underneath), multiple vocal takes tracked (which is more than him backing himself, it turns into a spread of vocals all pointing towards one perfect vocal that hasn’t been recorded), and that vague bi-fi recording quality.So, on Watch Me Fall we get songs like ‘It Ain’t Gonna Save Me’, which has the to-the-heart-of-it brevity and power of his best stuff, the simple refrain of the song title repeated with chiming electric guitar, strummy acoustic, and a thin descending keyboard at the end. But then you look at the lyrics and it’s a different story, depressing and sad stuff like ‘tired and lonely with no-one to blame’ and ‘my negativity, it takes it’s hold… it scares away the things I love’ undercut the exuberant song. Which isn’t anything new for Reatard, just look at ‘Screaming Hand’ from the Matador comp. last year, and unfortunately for him it comes up again and again throughout the album (rather more fortunate for us the listener because there’s nothing half as affecting as a joyous sounding song with depressing lyrics). ‘Can’t Do It Anymore’ is a short one, but all the better for it, with high electric guitar notes plucked on the chorus and an anthemic quality to the way he sings the song’s title (great guitar pick molesting over the last 30 seconds too, getting dragged up and down a string).The off the cuff sounding ‘Rotten Mind’ is possibly the best song on the album, a laid back poppy song with strummy electric guitar creating beds of melody, a drowsy sounding Jay floating words out into the air, all sounding like a Chills song. Again the downer lyrics are meshed in there too, ‘I don’t wannna be/I don’t wanna be/I don’t wanna be/Be this way’. ‘My Reality’ has more of that New Zealand atmosphere, the guitar playing out into a cave, Reatard's voice taking on a submerged quality. The structure of the song is the most laid back of the album, although that doesn’t mean it’s boring or lazy, there’s still plenty going on. The scabrous guitar tone of previous work appears in ‘Hang Them All’ to great effect as it adds some much needed energy to the back half of the album (I just have to mention here the astounding bit at the end of the song where a symphony of acoustic guitars flutter about in the sun, which seems a tossed off ending to the song, but might actually be my favourite thing on the whole album).Reatard has moved from British influenced melodic punk of the Buzzcocks, the Only Ones and such, towards the antipodean sound of the 80s, the Clean and the Chills, Flying Nun and etc. Which is all very in vogue to reference these days, but Jay Reatard does the vague psych, laid back but tense, catchy but portent-filled, really well, whilst still holding on to his own characteristics (depressing lyrics, great choruses, the recording techniques).85% Jay Reatard on MySpace