Jay Reatard turns arrested development into punk with heart on 'Watch Me Fall'

A few years ago at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, Listen, Dammit, overheard some hipster kid say to his friend, “First and foremost, Jay Reatard is making some of the best music in the world right now.”

That kid was absolutely right, as long as you’re into fast and loose punk rock with a late-’60 British garage inflection. It’s not some punk-poseur homage, either, as this profile in last Sunday’s New York Times makes clear. Reatard — aka Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. — is the real deal. That’s not necessarily something to be admired, except for one thing: His fractured fuck-all attitude spills over into his music, which is at once visceral and incredibly tuneful, particularly on his new album, “Watch Me Fall” (Matador). (Listen to an interview with Reatard here, via The Needle Drop.)

These 12 songs run a scant 32 minutes, which are packed with buzzsaw guitars and clattering drums, and yet it’s not as frenetic an experience as you’d think. Although many of his tunes are built around classic themes of arrested development, there’s something thoughtful, even touching, about Reatard imagining himself with Superman’s power to break free ordinary human limitations on “Man of Steel,” or lingering on a vision of the past even while recognizing the futility on “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me.”

He’s a punk, sure, but a heart beats beneath his snotty exterior, and that combination (and a deft way with pop hooks) is what allows Reatard to make music so catchy and compelling.

LISTEN
It Ain’t Gonna Save Me mp3

(Photo by Ruben Cox)

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