A friend had gone to get drinks and I waited, in the Rough Trade tent, among the many unsold Johnny Marr biographies. Soon, a backline of musicians materialised, pinned to the back of the small tent by tables of unsold merchandise. Next, a disruption of a man came to the fore and his name was Wesley Gonzalez. In between playful saxophone flourishes and warped vibrato synthesisers, WG sang high and low, shouted, beat his chest, requested drugs from the audience and bated the compere for working for a different record store to his own.
That was the 2016 Green Man Festival and at that time WG only had a catchy single to his name, with a video of him posing next to Blackpool waxworks. Now, in 2021, WG has two full albums out under the Moshi Moshi label. His latest offering Appalling Human is a bombastically self-critical, dance-pop fusion. Still loyal to the lacerating style of his first record: Excellent Musician, his second record is at times a more therapeutic and hopeful proposition. However, personal development has been laid bare this year as the reinflated dinghy caught in a storm it always was. Covid19 meant that WG could not tour his sophomore album, as he did his first. Not one to be perturbed; WG has kept himself in the troubled English consciousness with – in my opinion – the best Christmas single of 2020: ‘Red Man Is Back (With A Lonely Dose Of Pain)’. His next move has been to release ‘Change Your Circumstance’.
‘Change Your Circumstance’ is a rejection from the Appalling Humans sessions. Whether it was WG, the label or a committee of doubt that kept it off the album is unknown. It has not had the same attention in mastering as album tracks, but it is infused with the same disco rhythm and affected synths, that threaten to undermine the hooks but manage to euphorically transmogrify them.
A magician should never give away his tricks before retirement, but audiences may hypothesise. I hypothesise that the source of WG’s magic comes from his eclectic and curatorial style, that internalises the Japanese pop of Haruomi Hosono and the deconstructualist work of The Fall. What spills from the mind that consumes the full breadth of antagonism to melodical tropics, miraculously sounds both international and quintessentially English.
Similar to Saul Adamczewski’s Insecure Men, WG’s pop sounds as it would to a child, listening to a vinyl, unaware that it is the wearing down of material that makes the sounds slow and bend at times. This teasingly gelatinous after effect is brought forward and rather than signify an overplayed oldie, it points to a mind surrounded by music from a young age, interested in recreating infantile wonder. Simplified: it is trying to sound satisfying and surprising. It is pop, that teeters on the manipulated precipice of disharmony.
The keyboard is the understandable weapon of choice for the muso; such a diverse array of memories, keys and sounds at their fingertips is surely irresistible. WG then is the bull in the antique shop, of his own design. ‘Change Your Circumstance’ is a catchy tune but it is ersatz live music. One should applaud his inventiveness through Covid19 but not forget that when the stone is rolled away, he is one of the first acts we should bravely return to the public world to see.
‘Change Your Circumstance’ is available now on all of the usual streaming platforms and as a digital download on Bandcamp.
Review by Patrick Malone