I’m never sure whether I should dance, laugh, or squirm to a Gary Wilson record. All three are understandable reactions to his porno lounge sound, a fact that makes his music all the more uncomfortable. Lisa Wants To Talk to You comes on strong with saccharine keyboards and guitars, but is full of strong melodies and the same compellingly bizarre lyrics that have always characterized Wilson’s obsessive world of women and loss.
Lisa Wants To Talk to You begins and ends with the rain, radio, and chaotic energy of “All Alone in Endicott,” a reference to both Wilson’s hometown and his never-ending quest for companionship and sexual gratification. Little more than collages of seemingly random sounds, these pieces bookend an album that is otherwise rife with the music of AM radio and nightmare lounge performances. At the center of it all is Wilson and his pleading, sometimes pathetic vocals. Throughout the record he daydreams about making out with his old crush Mary, reminisces about his past with Lisa and Linda, and bemoans the existence of Karen, who seems to haunt him and his conscience even more than Mary does.
From start to finish Wilson is alone Endicott, all of his stories and fantasies just a strange blend of fiction and history playing out in his head. The drama and psychological nudity of Wilson’s lyrics make for an awkward and sometimes embarrassing experience. It’s tempting to reach out to Wilson and stop him from broadcasting his thoughts; they are a little embarrassing and often border on the neurotic. For the most part the music does little to cure that feeling, but from a certain perspective there’s as much humor on Lisa Wants To Talk to You as there is unnerving confession. Whether it is Wilson’s unflinching directness, his off-key delivery, or the clash between his dream world and reality, there’s something funny about this album that has nothing to do with its perversity or anachronistic musical style.
From beginning to end there are some excellent songs shot through with solid grooves, fat bass lines, and layered melodies. Songs like “Come On Mary” and “You Are Still My Girlfriend” have incredibly catchy hooks. They shed the lounge act sound and appeal to more than just the kitschy side of my brain. “Karen Had A Secret,” on the other hand, is dark enough to set off stalker alarms in my head. Wilson’s whispered vocals and the bitter subject matter are genuinely frightening, especially when contrasted with the record’s otherwise bright aesthetic. If played by other bands, many of these songs might be one-dimensional odes bordering either on the too-serious or the too-indulgent, but Wilson injects his music with layers of ideas, moods, and feelings. The wonky keyboards, sleazy veneer, and elevator vibe might put some listeners off, but Lisa Wants To Talk to You will reward any patient listener willing to venture in Wilson’s world.