He’s a right one, that Wesley Gonzalez. The ex Let’s Wrestle frontman has always had a strong sense of pop nous and a wicked sense of humour to boot. This, the follow-up to Excellent Musician (I’m sensing a pattern here, maybe the next two will be titled, respectively, Reasonable Shag and Terrible Cook?) tickles different genres and ideas.
Change and Tried To Tell Me Something have sickly 80s keyboards, coming on like Prefab Sprout on downers. The latter’s backing vocals and saxophone reference Bowie, bridging both Young Americans and Let’s Dance, so by extension there’s a kind of funk here, albeit of the shiny, late 70s/early 80s brand, a la Shalamar and Luther Vandross.
As expected, Wind Your Neck In has a waspish wit, and mines the kind of brainy pop those of us in our forties grew up with. Indeed, it’s a long jump from Let’s Wrestle’s larky, shouty indie days as Gonzalez’ voice now seems more akin to the ‘accidental’ eighties pop stars like Thomas Dolby and Edwyn Collins (circa Orange Juice). Irony and a kind of louche detachment make it fun, but at times hard to emotionally invest in.
Still, there’s some great, assured songwriting here. Did You Get What You Paid For? is a spiky riposte to a soured relationship, with wonky keyboards that the likes of Joe Mount is no stranger to. The choruses are epic and life-affirming, ideal for both the introspective sway of the indie dancefloor and the beer guzzling, big European festival.
The most interesting, beautiful track by far is A Fault In Your Design, a synthpop study in melancholy, where Gonzalez laments human fallibility.
So, it’s extremely satisfying if you are in the right frame of mind, all wired introspection and cocktail hour chat, but I am sensing yet another volte face come the next solo album. And I’ll bet he’s a fantastic lover, and cooks up a storm, too.