Recorded in his parents' basement between 1970 and 1978, Gary Wilson's self-produced, self-released, and totally self-indulgent You Think You Really Know Me is a suicide note, a love letter, and a last-ditch effort at total rock stardom all wrapped into one. A prescient fusion of funk, soul, sound collage, and pop, the album inspired Beck to write Odelay ("Like my man Gary Wilson ..." sings Beck on "Where It's At"), but bankrupted its creator to such an extent that he spent his next twenty years as a lounge singer and as a cashier who worked the graveyard shift at an adult bookstore.
Needless to say, the album is pure genius. Reissued by Motel Records, it is a collection of Wilson's darkest secrets set to echoes of Television, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, and Wilson's cited primary influence, John Cage. "6.4 Makeout" finds Wilson crooning about being stood up at a party. After a breakdown that sounds lifted from the Barbarella soundtrack, Wilson wails, "She so real/Can't you hear me God/She so REAL!" The guy sounds like he's having an orgasm, for Christ's sake. Just for a second, imagine what his parents must have been thinking: There he is, recording his vocals in a bathroom (probably the master bathroom, they have the best acoustics). Mom's cookin' flapjacks, tossing an eyebrow upstairs, perhaps throwing a look to pops: "Should we do something about this?" Luckily they didn't. And the album continues.
On the song "When You Walk Into My Dreams" Wilson sounds like a white dork taking a crack at Stevie Wonder. Though he's obviously obsessed with psychedelia, Wilson restrains the songs to perfect pop length. His lyrics are another story. On "Loneliness" he sings, "So tired/I wish I were dead," as the sound of water filling a bathtub plays in the background. If anything, it's this manic depressiveness which will grate on some people -- it lacks any and all irony and results in some pretty over-the-top moments. (Then again, was manic depression a cliché back in '78?)
Ultimately, You Think You Really Know Me is every indie rocker's dream. "No one recognizes my genius," whine the bedroom Lou Barlows of the world. Well, looky what we have here -- two decades later someone is finally recognizing this guy's genius. So go, indie rocker, go! As Steve Perry once said, "Don't stop believin'!/Hold on to that feelin'!" In twenty years, you too could be the next Gary Wilson.
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