After two albums of raucous lo-fi indie pop, London oddballs Let's Wrestle began to tighten things up on their self-titled third LP. An added focus on production value, increasingly detailed arrangements, and a more thoughtful tone seemed to herald a new era for the young group whose leader, Wesley Gonzalez, was only 15 when they released their 2005 debut. Instead, the trio disbanded in 2015 and Gonzalez put down the guitar entirely, immersing himself in old Al Green and Stevie Wonder albums and teaching himself to play the piano. The result of his self-education is 2017's Excellent Musician, a colorful guitar-absent debut that recalls some of the more nuanced vibes of Let's Wrestle's swan song while also raiding the paintbox of English pop dignitaries from the Beatles to XTC. On top of his robust piano-bass-drums foundation, Gonzalez layers a variety of ornamentations, from thick analog synths and Mellotrons to growling saxophones. The songs themselves are hearty constructions, wavering between crafty detailed pop and a freewheeling anxious sound that suggests his wild punk roots aren't all that far in the past. Standouts like "Just a Piece of Mind" and "Not That Kind of Guy" mix muscular piano pop with soulful horn stacks, while the more sparsely appointed "Don't Try and Take Me Down" takes on a distinctly Nilsson-esque cast. Gonzalez always claimed a diverse set of influences throughout his tenure with Let's Wrestle, and with Excellent Musician his pop acumen comes even further to the fore and frequently dazzles.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger