Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jay Reatard

Watch Me Fall (2009)

Matador Records

Released in August of 2009, Watch Me Fall was the first and only full-length record of Jimmy Lindsey’s to be released on Matador Records, in what was anticipated to be both the beginning of a long and lasting relationship, as well as a new peak for his prolific musical career. The famously combative but talented indie rocker would finally get his day in the sun. Shortly after the album’s release, however, things began to deteriorate -- his back-up band quit (to eventually join the band Wavves), and Lindsey plunged into a pit of alienation, depression and drugs that would prove insurmountable.

On Wednesday, January 13th of 2010, Jimmy Lindsey was found by a roommate in his bed, dead from a toxic mix of cocaine and alcohol. In the wake of his untimely passing at the age of 29, Watch Me Fall became Lindsey’s unexpected swan song, an album which he himself described as centered around a growing fear of death and the betrayal of close friends. It is in this manner that Watch Me Fall feels chillingly prophetic, a tragic, self-aware treatise on self-destruction. Serving as the final chapter of a career that includes hundreds of songs spread out over a vast collection of releases, Jay Reatard saved some of his most affecting work for last, though in hindsight it is difficult to listen to Watch Me Fall and maintain a separation between art and the tragedy that followed.

From the cover art (depicting a pale and shivering Jay Reatard standing in a hazy, snowy woodland hellscape, an apparent homage to “The Shining”), to the downtrodden lyrical content, an aura of stark, frigid darkness haunts the music. ”All is lost, there is no hope/All is lost, you can’t go home/All is lost, there is no hope for me” Lindsey sings on album opener “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me”, a tonal mission statement for the final batch of Jay Reatard songs.

Gone is the barrage of fuzzy guitars featured in many of his previous songs, opting instead for a leaner sound, featuring cleaner guitars and production, with more of an emphasis on the subtleties of instrumentation. By Lindsey’s own admission the songs on Watch Me Fall were written to be “mellower”, and in a sense this is correct, but such anger and deep melancholy simmer under every entry that the songs ultimately feel anything but. Lindsey’s ability to crank out hook after hook is still intact; the album is rich in catchy choruses and memorably strange and angular verses and bridges. On display is the songwriting dynamic of a man in control of his craft, if not his personal demons.

A swirl of influences find themselves permeating Lindsey’s songs, from DEVO to Queen to the Kinks, but ultimately Lindsey’s sound is entirely his own. From the rigid, barking verses of “Faking It”, to the slowed down creepiness of “I’m Watching You”, to the appropriately morose, chill-inducing closer “There Is No Sun”, Watch Me Fall runs the gamut of Lindsey’s songwriting chops, and that this would be his final showcase makes it all the more impressive and, ultimately, saddening.

Without doubt, Jay Reatard remains one of the most influential underground artists of the new century. His unique sound, and subsequent death, sent ripples through the punk, garage and indie scenes, and to this day many bands owe a debt of gratitude to his discography. An entire generation of garage rockers sound how they sound in part because of Jay Reatard, and though this world proved too cold for Jimmy Lindsey, his music serves as a posthumous reminder of what he always was: a talented but tortured voice, cut off too soon.