Months before the release of Watch Me Fall, irascible garage rocker Jay Reatard described his full-length Matador Records debut as “wimpy,” an adjective that speaks more to his troubled middle-school sociopath persona than the supposed wimpiness of his new material. For the willfully arrested Reatard, sensitivity means not expressing a willingness to kill anyone who pisses him off. (On “Rotten Mind,” he only kills people in his mind.) But Reatard is still as aggressive on the lyrics sheet as he is toward dullard fans at his overcrowded shows. As he bellows on the dreamy, carnival-esque “Hang Them All,” Reatard sees the world strictly in me-vs.-everyone-else terms, and the world better put up its dukes, because he’s definitely not going to be the one to back down.
It’s possible, though, that Reatard is simply overcompensating for his sticky-sweet music, which veers more toward the bubblegum-pop side of the punk family tree than the self-consciously macho metal side. He talks like a tough guy, but Reatard essentially makes roller-skating music for latchkey kids. Watch Me Fall includes some of his best sing-along jams yet: On “I’m Watching You”—which gives a demo-like throwaway originally collected on last year’s excellent Matador Singles ’08 a sunshine-pop makeover—it’s unclear whether the object of his affection appreciates his obsessive attention. But it doesn’t really matter: For a romantic misanthrope like Reatard, love is best when it never has to leave his head.