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Gary Wilson "You Think You Really Know Me"
(Motel Records)

While a recent NYTimes Magazine article may have just started to clue the 'burbs in on "outsider" music, touching upon the naif magic of Langley School and Daniel Johnson, as well as plugging the Shaggs movie in the process, they never once strayed beyond the surface to some of the true outsiders like Otto Muehl, Cromagnon, Jean Dubuffet (who contributed to outsider art as well), Jandek, and one of the catchiest of them all, Gary Wilson.

Of college radio oddities, Wilson's 6.4=Make Out is a classic, almost reclining on a loungey sound-bed, and yet the vocal delivery, with its croaky smoothness, does little to hide the simmering agitation in Wilson's voice. The juxtaposition scarcely makes any sense, especially when the noise juts up, and Gary rends cries of "She's real! God She's so real!" from the blackest part of his head. It is a frightening experience, delivered with a spastic sincerity that repeatedly crosses the line between harmless and deranged. It is a line that the record, You Think You Really Know Me runs back and forth over repeatedly.

You Think You Really Know Me was originally pressed in an edition of 200, most of which were given to radio station drives or were smashed over Wilson's head during live performances, leaving very few around. It is a record often whispered or name-dropped by those in the know. And thanks to Motel Records' lovely reissue, we can understand why it was always in a low voice.

While a track like "6.4" can elicit a nervous laughing off, others like "Loneliness," which wrenches a strangulated whisper of "Sometimes I wish I was dead," proceeding from there with keyboard stabs and a very long bit of pouring water and a disconnected phone, the operator chiming in, the entire mood clenches up, reaching a rare strain of pop psychosis. It's not the type of thing you would just throw on for anybody. But then it wanders aimlessly into Lonnie Liston Smith's room, or Steely Dan's dirty little closet.

Even after repeated listens (a guilty pleasure for sure) I remain far from nailing this thing, folks. (This epiphany is waaay before even entering into the utterly lost trinity of "You Think You Really Know Me," "Chromium Bitch," and closer "And Then I Kissed Your Lips.") As even the most eloquent and vocal of record geeks have just wound up muttering, defeatedly, "I dunno, it's just fucked, man."

It is, but the best part is now you can bust out the Saran Wrap and flour (to mention nothing of sports jackets and shades) and go see Gary step outside of his daytime lounge gig (his other job is at a porno shop) for a night at Joe's Pub on May 15th. This is not to say he never played out. In fact, the notes to the disc feature an old CBGB flier from back in Wilson's heyday. Presumably, this rare appearance has to do with the excellent job Motel Records did of exhuming Gary Wilson's only record, and putting him back into some sort of light once thought lost. What it'll reveal decades later, I'm not sure if I really want to know.

Andy Beta

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[email protected] | May 2002 | Issue 26
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