See also: An Interview with the King of Endicott
On the latest Gary Wilson record, The King of Endicott, Gary incorporates the outer space themes he visited on his last album Let’s Go to Outer Space into an ode to his hometown of Endicott, New York. Musically it’s very much a logical step from Outer Space. Gary’s really settled into this great sound that’s like bouncy extraterrestrial pop music. Experimental and extremely catchy at the same time, The King of Endicott never gets stale. It’s an album in the classic sense of the LP: one that should be listened to all the way through.
“Don’t waste your time being all alone, I’m gonna take you to the Twilight Zone,” Gary tells his date on “The Town Of A Thousand Lights,” before declaring “solo” and launching into a great organ part. One of the main things I noticed that’s different about this album is Gary does this a lot. You would think this would get annoying, but the organ/keyboard parts are so off-beat and sound so interesting that it just adds to the effect of general weirdness that pervades the album. I really loved the drums on Outer Space and they continue in the same vein on King of Endicott. Plenty of tom and plenty of cowbell. “The Lonely Park” is a particular highlight on the album for me, as I see it as a kind of sequel to “Gary’s In The Park.” Definitely the most instantly catchy song on the record for me. Just in case you forgot, Gary tells his date on this one, “Let’s take a trip to the planet Mars!”
“Every night I walk through my lonely town, cause’ I see you standing there with the chromium clown.” The opening line on “I Don’t Want To Be Alone” creates the perfect sense of melancholy and nostalgia. I’ve always wondered who the chromium clown is exactly. Is it Gary imagining an alternate sad version of himself, or an archetype of the guy whose girl you want to steal because he’s such a chump? Regardless, this album manages to be super relatable to anyone who’s experienced unrequited love. Could this be Gary’s most personal album?
I’ve concluded after doing a deep dive into all of Gary Wilson’s material that along with his latest release, The King of Endicott, Gary is incapable of making a mediocre album. He’s always refining his sound, while at the same time retaining elements of previous albums so there aren’t any radical departures. The greatest change in Gary Wilson’s sound came in the the 2000s when his music took on both a more lounge-music quality, and a sound that greater reflected the influence of late 1950s-early 1960s teen idol music which Gary grew up on before Beatlemania hit. No surprise that he has an established background playing bass for lounge gigs.
Zappa is an obvious touchstone for Gary, but his music is consistently upbeat. Gary Wilson creates this decidedly bizarre environment with his music, but at the same time he wants to make you feel good and have a good time. Gone is the amorphous space girl from Let’s Go to Outer Space. We’re back to Linda, Debbie, Cindy, Lugene: you know all the regulars.
Gary’s musical universe has always revolved around his hometown of Endicott, New York, where it’s always Friday night. It’s fitting that at this point in his career, Gary has decided with The King of Endicott to take things a step further with a concept album about Endicott. The music itself has never sounded better, and I really hope Gary makes it out to tour this one on the East Coast.
“I wanna hold your hand and I’ll take you to my magical land,” Gary promises on the title track. With The King of Endicott, he indeed did so.
Stop what you’re doing right now. R. Stevie Moore just released one of his best collection of songs, Afterlife, so what else were you going to spend that money on? What is there new to say about R. Stevie Moore that hasn’t already been said? Upon inspection of the liner notes, this new release is actually a compilation of recordings, one, the Moore-Lane Steinberg collaboration, “What Do I Do With The Rest Of My Life?” from 2004. The rest of the songs were all recorded in the early 2010s with the usual incredible supporting cast of Billy Anderson, Roger Ferguson, and the more recent addition to the R. Stevie universe, Jason Falkner. Moore’s catalog is a music collector’s dream, and I was pleased to find a lot of new recordings of personal favorites on here, right alongside songs that instantly grabbed me.
Somewhere there is an alternate universe where R. Stevie Moore gets the respect he deserves as a songwriting genius, on par with Lennon and Nilsson. Moore’s chord progressions are always innovative. He never settles for taking a simple progression and writing a new melody on top. There’s always something very interesting going on with the guitar. Stevie always knocks it out of the park with vocals too. He’s one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists of the past 50 years.
Unlike many of Stevie’s home releases which contain some very great experimental material, Afterlife is a collection of his pure pop songs. Two personal favorites on here are my first favorite Moore song, “The Winner,” and my latest, “Here Comes Summer Again.” The former appeared originally on Returns and the latter on Swing And A Miss, both excellent releases themselves which I’d recommend purchasing on his Bandcamp.
I have to warn you if you’re new to Stevie’s music, it can get addicting. There’s so many albums, and for most people they wouldn’t know where to start. Though I can claim to essentially be a member of the 2019 iteration of the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club with all the releases I have, there’s still so many albums I have left to explore. That said, based off my limited knowledge, I would now include Afterlife with Phonography, Clack, and Glad Music as the first four R. Stevie albums you should listen to.
A review of Afterlife would be incomplete without mentioning Ariel Pink’s cameo lead vocals on the track, “Come My Way.” He sounds so different than his usual self that I thought it was Stevie at first. Their relationship is one of the great one’s in rock history, and I was lucky enough to hear House Arrest and Phonography the summer after I graduated high school. Both albums were game changers for me.
I can tell Afterlife is going to be a record I play a disturbing amount of times, and I’m okay with that. I would recommend Afterlife to any fan of rock music; there’s really something for everybody on here. 10/10.
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Classical violinist and piano player. Mostly self-taught guitarist took lessons with Vic Juris who was sampled for Gang Starr’s Mass Appeal hit. Appeared in Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep (d. by Wes Craven.) Long-time home-recording artist.