As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Gary Wilson.
Those who happen onto the musings of Gary Wilson are bound to lobby ill comparisons at the enigmatic musician: his Wayne Cohen hair, his Devo style, and his throwback pop that’s been used from Beck to Ariel Pink in the last two decades. Yet it was Wilson’s 1977 debut album, You Think You Really Know Me, heavy with 50s doo-wop and Syd Barrett psychedelia that stood as an island amidst a sea of punk, new, and no wave. It was a deeply personal album, infusing Wilson’s strange musicality with a lyrical bent intertwined with the sort of Americana left untouched since the slow demise of The Beach Boys. Truly, Gary Wilson just wasn’t made for his time.
It took 25 years before Gary Wilson was more than a mere shout out or spectacular name drop. The re-release of his debut along with a ‘where is he now?’ documentary propelled Wilson to a stardom his past only teased. After numerous label dalliances and failed attempts to strike out on his own, Wilson’s musical dream was transformed into a quiet existence as a sometime lounge musician—happy to live his days in a San Diego apartment with his girlfriend and no phone. But the renewed interest in a climate ripe for his brand of strange nostalgia brought Wilson back to the stage. Here we stand, eight years later and Wilson returns with his third album, released via Western Vinyl (he released Mary Had Brown Hair in 2004 on Stone’s Throw), Electric Endicott — a reference to the sleepy hometown from wince Wilson’s genius was honed.
Endless Endicott dares not abandon Wilson’s grasp of his talent or style; both unique to Wilson. As personal as ever, his songs are infused with teenage infatuation; penned hearts and-arrows on notebook covers forever chronicling an infinitesimal list of innocent crushes. A pattern established in pop during the slow birth of rock and roll, perfected by doo-wop, perverted by free love, and sensationalized by the excesses of the 80s. Yet Wilson’s ability to bridge these wide gaps and keep the tone kempt maintains Wilson’s grasp on pop construction as he continually chips at its familiar constructs with an array of tools meant to destroy the concepts he holds dear. Love is masochistic; such is Wilson’s attitude toward music. There can be no pleasure without experiencing pain.
Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He is currently at work on a new column which will debut on the KEXP Blog in the coming weeks. You may follow him on Twitter.