Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mopping Up Culture Vomit: The wild, hair-up-your-ass, 2-cups-of-coffee-ten-packs-of-sugar, Teddy Roosevelt-on-PCP Genius of Andrew W.K.

Take something seemingly simple.

Blow it up.

It suddenly becomes interesting.

I feel like that's the thrust behind much of the photography I enjoy: those giant baby carrots seem much more delicious (and so much more full of life) than they did before.

And that, as surprising as it may be to photography enthusiasts, seems to be the philosophy behind the music of one Andrew Wilkes-Krier. Except Andy uses "blow up" in the sense of "magnification" and in the sense of "blowing shit up."

I guess I take it for granted that everyone was fascinated with this guy at one point or another. But based on the number of weird looks I get even when I refer to him as the "Party Hard" guy, this appears not to be the case.

The alleged (more on that later) early part of AWK's life begins in Ann Arbor, where he was born to a...blah prep school...blah blah classically trained pianist.

I doubt Andy would want me to spend much time explaining his biography. That time could be better spent hitting myself with a brick or shooting coke or smearing myself with pig's blood. All that, incidentally, took place over the course of one cover shoot.

I think.

Andrew WK's a tough nut to crack. His first album is all macho posturing and cock-rock guitars, his second record a (slightly) more introspective affair, and his third a (completely) insane Japan-only Frank Zappa homage.

Wait, what?

Actually that first album (I Get Wet), upon further consideration, is really a so-dumb-it's-brilliant masterpiece, a shining example of how not to gussy up party tunes with more than one chord/lyric. Parties are dumb, and so are these songs. Brilliant, right?

Right? Fuck. I'm lost again.

What about the second album? The Wolf works out that "motivational speaker" angle much better than the first one (I Get Wet's inspirational anthem, "Got to Do It", is the only song I consistently skip). "Never Let Down" will make you rebuild that bridge that "Party Hard" inspired to you destroy in the first place.

But the Wikipedia page for The Wolf refers to "insightful lyrics and a more melodic sound." Really? "I love music and I love to feel/I love music and I love to yell?" Doesn't sound too much different to me.

Okay, okay.

Calm down, Jordan, you can do this: Andrew WK's an artist like any other. You can parse his sound in a few neat sentences of boilerplate critical language.

(deep breath) Let's try this again.

The third album (Close Calls with Brick Walls) is where all that brilliance comes through loud and clear. Amid Zapparrific loping rhythms and experimental song structures, WK reveals transcendent insight on this Japan-only hidden gem.

Oh crap.

I found the lyric sheet:

"Are you ready to go to sleep?/NO!/PARTY!"



I'm fine. Seriously.

I'm not having a critical nervous breakdown right now.

I can fit this guy in a box. I can: he's actually a complete idiot who managed to fool a bunch of hipster assholes into thinking he was brilliant. Except for Pitchfork, who gave his first record a .6/10.



AHA! He just put out an album of structured improvisations for solo piano called 55 Cadillac! That has to reveal how truly neanderthalic this guy really is! Right? Right?!






And that is exactly why real Jordan (and not hysterical critic Jordan) loves Andrew WK.

Screw Bob Dylan. This guy has had twice as many lives in one-eighth the time. He's all of those things I mentioned above at the same, mind-melting time. And more:

He's a character on Aqua Teen Hunger Force (see above).

He's a contributor to a late night TV show on Fox News.

He's sometimes a sometimes Weather Man on a local Fox affiliate.

He's been called "truly cute" by Time Magazine, yet he writes lyrics like "You're just a parasite/Now close your eyes and say goodnight."

And, best of all, he released a full-length album of Gundam theme music earlier this month to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Mobile Suit Gundam. Naturally, only in Japan.

Andrew WK is all things to all people, and a complete mystery to everyone. And I love the hell out of him for it. I think he may also have concocted an extra personality for himself (surprise surprise) while he was bored.

So take a few minutes (or what will probably become a few hours if you fall in not-so-hetero-love with Andy like I did) and peruse what comes up when you type Andrew WK into Google. I think, even if you never blast "She is Beautiful" until your speakers give out from sheer exhaustion (which I highly recommend), you'll find something to love.

AND, if you're in Chicago tomorrow night (or five other lucky cities), come see Andrew WK continue to freak people out by playing his hits (and selections from the improvised piano record) with a string quartet.

I'm gonna see if this time, unlike every other time, I can finally figure this guy out.

I can't wait to fail.