Last year the inimitable Gary Wilson quietly released an album called Let’s Go to Outer Space that in my opinion was the best musical release of the year. I wouldn’t have even known about the album coming out, had it not been for Dam-Funk tweeting about how much the album connected with him. Knowing how similar my taste is to Dam, I immediately purchased the album on Bandcamp and went down a delightfully strange trip I think I’m still on.
A long-time fan of R. Stevie Moore, Ariel Pink, and associated acts, I was somewhat familiar with You Think You Really Know Me, but I’d admittedly only given it a few spins. For some reason when I heard it, it just didn’t have that instant connection that R. Stevie Moore’s Phonography had with me when I was an elitist 17-year-old with a burgeoning record collection. My opinion of Gary and his music changed after just a few spins of Let’s Go to Outer Space.
Even though I love You Think You Really Know Me now, there’s something that changed about Gary’s style when he resurfaced in the 2000s that endears me even more to his sound. The records got bouncier, and on Let’s Go to Outer Space they feel lighthearted for how bizarre they are. This seems to be a current that runs through all or most of Gary’s work. I’m not sure why exactly, but I was able to put this album on multiple days and just let it run on repeat. Is it Gary’s sense of melody? His arrangements? It’s the whole package with Gary. Let’s Go to Outer Space might be the most critically neglected record of 2017.
There’s something way more innocent about Gary Wilson’s music than R. Stevie Moore’s. Sure they’re both “weird” musicians, but as I get older, much as I love R. Stevie, I prefer to listen to Gary these days. Maybe he isn’t as much a master of the pop melody, but he’s every bit as unique and has just as much to offer the current indie rock landscape. Frankly, if I had an unlimited platform, I’d dedicate a lot of time trying to raise awareness of both artists. As indie rock has become a commercial radio platform and branding tool, I think it’s very important to support the originators of “outsider” music.
My love affair with Gary Wilson’s records really started when I saw a link Ross Harris posted to the video he directed for ‘Gary’s in The Park,’ on his Twitter. I was blown away at how the song grooved and at the same time had all these off-beat sounds in it. That simple guitar riff is just a stroke of pure genius. Again, I played this song on repeat incessantly for weeks, right before I saw Dam’s tweet.
The thing about Gary Wilson’s music that makes it so special is it has this innocence to it even though it’s informed by all these avant-garde sensibilities. The female characters that resurface in his songs like Mary and Linda reveal that behind the goofy exterior, these could very well be truly heartfelt love songs, and that’s what really hit me hard about Let’s Go to Outer Space.
How can you not love a record that starts with, “My girlfriend, she’s from outer space, and she made a special trip to Endicott, and I met her at the bus stop in Johnson City?” The whole theme of a significant other being from another planet is a personal favorite of mine. When I was in college I wrote a song called ‘She’s an Alien’ about a girl I was seeing at the time, and after playing it for my older friend and mentor he goes, “that’s so college.” I love this aspect of Let’s Go to Outer Space. Why not romanticize a muse to the point of ridiculousness? Maybe this aspect of his music is Gary Wilson’s greatest achievement. However, one of my favorite parts about Let’s Go to Outer Space is there’s no Linda’s or Mary’s here, just Gary’s pretty little space girl. It’s an album that asserts Gary’s continued presence in the music industry, and I can’t wait for his next one.