Every review of a Gary Wilson album you will ever read starts with a brief biography of the man, an overview of his work, and a description of his long-winded route to minor stardom – but you won’t find any of that here.
You got Google, right?
So go on: open up a new tab, type ‘Gary Wilson’ in the search bar, then click on the Wikipedia article. Consider it your homework…
All done? Good. Interesting isn’t he! So let’s get on with this review thing.
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Like all Gary Wilson’s albums, ‘Feel The Beat’ mixes a pop sensibility with a propensity for weirdness that could only exist in someone who once studied under experimental composer John Cage. Yet Gary Wilson is much more than an experimentalist posing as a pop star or vice versa. The songs on this album seem to demonstrate a real love for, and understanding of, pop music – while crossing over into dangerously experimental territory.
One particular aspect of pop music that Gary appears to draw perennial inspiration from is its often mind numbing inanity. Songs such as Let’s Rock and Roll and Something Came To Me are nothing if not ambiguous celebrations of the wonderfully throwaway nature of pop. Lashed firmly to almost annoyingly catchy hooks, the brilliant understatement in lyrics like “Music with a back-beat makes me feel all right”, and “Let’s go, Let’s Rock and Roll!” captures perfectly the charm of pop music at its disposable best.
But with Gary Wilson nothing’s ever as it seems.
The opening track Why Did You Kiss Me? Starts with a jumble of voices – all Gary’s of course – muttering and shouting indecipherable words over a sound-scape of synthesizer pads, jazzy keyboard breaks and noise. After forty-seven strange seconds the voices fade away and the first real song kicks in. My Dream Is Yours starts with a funky synth break over the top of a solid, cheap, drum machine and bass-synth groove, decorated with layers of sparkling, clunky synths and distant, distorted guitar. The title is nothing less than an invitation into Gary Wilson’s dreams.
‘Space’, ‘walking’, ‘hearts’, ‘dreams’, ‘kisses’, ‘brown hair’, ‘cool’, ‘midnight’, ‘streets’: these words are the raw stuff of the cryptic dream-world that Gary proceeds to guide us through, a world populated, as always, by an army of never forgotten lovers. Linda, Cathy, Stephanie, Karen, Cindy, Mary and (new-girl) Lugene all make appearances throughout the album as Gary obsesses over the teenage insecurities that decorate his psychological landscape. One moment Cheryl is kissing him on the beach, the next he’s dancing with Cindy in the moonlight. One minute Gary’s on the phone with Linda until around midnight, the next he feels “like Jason looking for the Golden Fleece.”
Groove follows hook follows groove as we tip-toe through the synth-carved caverns of Gary’s mind, stopping every now and then to admire the cave paintings of his memories before the darkness hides them forever. Sometimes, as in the instrumental section of My Eyes Are Closed, and the sinister a-tempo jazz daubings of Lugene Kissed Me Last Night, we catch sight of near-perfect musical structures, stalagmites and stalactites – just to see them instantly dissolve in a deluge of awkward keyboards and two-dimensional drum beats.
Feel The Beat, the title track, seems like the most personal track on the album, a genuine love song. It also includes my favourite line of the album: “Just grab her, take her by the hand, take her to a drive-in movie – or just sit back and watch T.V: it doesn’t really matter what you do.” In every other song Gary is singing about a fictional version of himself, but in this song he seems somehow more real.
The concepts of identity and perception are things he plays with throughout the album, shifting from first to third person, singing his own asides as though he is two different people at once, moving from present to past tense as he excavates Gary Wilson’s memories and desires. On the penultimate song he sings: “I (that’s me!) live on Bermond Avenue,” as if he’s giving us directions to his (that’s his!) house. “It’s not far from here,” he tells us reassuringly, as he holds our hands and walks us through the midnight streets, blurring forever the distinction between the real and the surreal, between Gary Wilson and Gary Wilson.
Download the title track HERE for free! Buy the album HERE!