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Gary Wilson - Lisa Wants to Talk to You

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Artist: Gary Wilson

Album: Lisa Wants to Talk to You

Label: Human Ear

Review date: Mar. 18, 2009

Gary Wilson recorded his neurotic funk-pop masterpiece You Think You Really Know Me in 1977. It was driven by his sexual preoccupations. For all of its blunt tone-deafness (I am almost positive a particular ex of mine would have described Gary’s comically inept come-ons as “so inappropriate”), it displayed the intriguing self-confidence of a committed loner. Wilson’s vocals, like Lou Reed’s, sounded more cool and detached than flailing and incompetent. There’s every reason to believe that, on the strength of a record like You Think You Really Know Me, a basement-bound nerd like Gary Wilson could totally tap that.

In the ’90s, with its mix of self-conscious eclecticism and slacker pathos, Wilson gathered a fresh audience. After his “anti-folk” period and before he became Dan Fogelberg, Beck based a large part of his sound and image on YTYRKM, particularly the rubbery grooves and outsider sexuality of Midnight Vultures. This helped resurrect Wilson’s career. But it hardly seems to have cheered the guy up. He still keeps to himself, when he’s not performing wrapped in duct tape. And it doesn’t sound as though Wilson (or at least the “Gary Wilson” character) has his girl problems handled. Not by a damn sight.

Lisa Wants to Talk to You is his fourth album in 30 years, and it is by far his darkest. Wilson still calls his crushes out by name. (We’ve got Lisa, Linda, Mary (the recurrent, who Wilson sounds as though he wants to talk into a threesome with one or both of the aforementioned) and Karen (toward whom Wilson seems to harbor a particular animus). He’s still focused on the booty, but these jagged proposals sound hopeless, desperate and unlikely to materialize. His voice is thinner, and he sounds hard-bitten by his years of passive longing. And he repeatedly returns to Endicott, his placid New York hometown, and finds himself “all alone.” If You Think You Really Know Me was a record about nervous anticipation, and 2004’s “comeback” Mary Had Brown Hair was about ambiguous introspection, Lisa Wants to Talk to You is about losing daydreams before they come close to happening.

This is still dance music, though. Once again, “no computer or sequencing was used in the recording of this album,” and the tracks are crisp, playful and charming. Wilson still gets everything from ’70s R&B. Like a lot of unapologetic outsiders, he hasn’t necessarily weathered well, but he can still throw a weird, solid dance party.

By Emerson Dameron

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