New-Wave indie recluse Gary Wilson’s Mary Had Brown Hair is at once intriguing, saddening, infectious, and infuriating. Gary Wilson walks a fine line between genius and laziness. He seems on the verge of bursting out with poetic expression, but largely confines himself to basic rhymes and wandering monologues. He constructs a delicate, synthesized, funky backdrop, but undermines himself with drum machine beats and preschool song melodies reminiscent of the work of Wesley Willis. He reveals a fragile singing voice, but overuses a vocal effect that leaves him sounding like he’s just inhaled helium. Wilson’s album is a sort of tease: he shows the talent and creativity to produce great work, but he seems content creating an overly simplistic, synthesized symphony.
Still, Wilson’s offerings are worth a listen, artfully providing insight into Wilson’s neurotic persona. Wilson sometimes uses sped-up vocals as an alter ego, a commentator on his various pathetic states. The album contains several solid tracks, including “Electric Depression” and “Hold Back the Daylight.” But these tracks are offset a handful of unimaginative instrumentals and conceptual pieces, including “Shauna Made me Cry,” which features Gary Wilson quietly sobbing behind soothing electronic sounds. Wilson often expresses himself too directly, seeming much more like an oversensitive adolescent than an adult songwriter. But perhaps that’s the point. Wilson’s deliberately childish production reflects his struggle with childish and self-absorbed motives. In the end, the same feelings of insecurity and unworthiness expressed in Wilson’s songs limit his songwriting; he hides complex emotions in simplistic compositions and is not interested in achieving his full potential. But Gary Wilson, it seems, likes it that way.
Archived article by Geoff Bakken
Red Letter Daze Contributor