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Mary Had Brown Hair

Gary Wilson

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Album Review

Mary Had Brown Hair is Gary Wilson's first new material since he re-emerged in 2002, after reissues of his late-'70s work turned the world on to his crooked and flower-caked smile. But despite his nearly 30-year station break, he's ignored the musical interim. Mary doesn't draw on the whatever-wave climate of 2004, despite parts of it being owed to Wilson's original mercurial horn-dog muse. Nor does the album feature cumbersome, press-hogging guest shots — this isn't the hipsterati Supernatural. Instead it spools out snips of Wilson's broken fusion style, gluing them together for another neurotic soundtrack to would-be chrome lovers and penned-in thoughts. On Mary there's a second Gary sitting on the real Gary's shoulder. This alternate is in 2-D, sputtering like blistered beta playback. He brandishes the severed arm of a foxy-ass mannequin and speaks in manipulated tone-bank warbles. This other Gary often speaks for the original, who's overcome with love and indecision, anger, or sexual frustration. The sped-up voice tells us "Gary Saw Linda Last Night," and how he was sad. "But then I was glad," Gary himself says, "'Cause now I'd be alone." For, as much as he longs for companionship, it's easier to not subject himself to the pain, to return to the comfort of darkness and the avenue. "Gary's in the Park" bounces all chipper, like a 24-hour supermarket's incidental music remixed for use in cocktail lounges. But while out searching for tail, Wilson and his wavering alter ego turn angry at some perceived slight. They were happier alone, when love was just potential. This is the shift in Mary Had Brown Hair. While Wilson always did more wanting than getting, his desires now seem to guide him to a cynical id dead end. The women that haunt the album don't seem aware of him; they're random bus passengers, or pretty secretaries on the sidewalk. Regardless, they're impetuses for his particular heart damage. "Debbie Debbie" is a love song in the classic Wilson sense, its fuzz guitar and pattering drum machine drenching his pleading in awkward basement slow jamming. And even though "Linda Wants to Be Alone" turns a little stalker creepy, its sharp-angled whir is reminiscent of the Korgis' "Chinese Girl." Of course, Mary Had Brown Hair also has its freaky sketches. "Shauna Made Me Cry" is a brief interlude of, well, Gary Wilson crying. Later, Linda reappears in "Our Last Date." Backed by a chorus of horror film organ and radar beeps, a shape-shifting Wilson describes how he "saw" her name scrawled on a rock. He slept on it, only to wake and find himself alone with painful memories. "I can still see her face in the Jaycee Diner/Where we shared French fries and gravy." And the Donnie Darko bunny beckons from a ravine. Mary Had Brown Hair is an unpredictable and thrilling teeter of nightmare and wet dream. It might be Gary Wilson's official return to our world, but it's clear he's still living deep inside his own. [The album included radically different demo versions of Wilson oldies "6.4= Make Out" and "Chromium Bitch," both dating from 1976.]

Biography

Born: October, 1953 in Endicott, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '00s, '10s

The brain-damaged electro-funk of Gary Wilson was new wave when the label was still mainly used to categorize punk acts with a sweet tooth for pop. Completely ahead of his time, Wilson used chilly synthesizers and bizarre sound effects and samples to tell his odd tales of love and sex. In 1977, Wilson recorded his debut LP You Think You Really Know Me in the basement of his parents' house in Endicott, NY. Home tapings started becoming prevalent in the '90s, but in the late '70s, Wilson was an indie...
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Mary Had Brown Hair, Gary Wilson
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