Featured Music: Wednesday, May 02, 2002
Dripping With Irony

Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet is an accidental pomo masterpiece.

By Anthony Mariani

Party Hard,” the first of what will probably be many singles to come off Andrew W.K.’s smashing debut, I Get Wet (Island/Def Jam), opens with a “Freakazoid”-ish voice intoning: “When it’s time to party, we will party hard.” And boom — the jaunt begins with chugging drums and guitars colliding on a single chord, jammed on quickly and repeatedly. A cheesy synth wall of sound helps create the sonicsphere of a late-’80s beer commercial — or the theme song to a really bad high-school hijinks B-movie of that same decade. A glossy guitar line, multi-multi-tracked, climbs high, sinks low, climbs high, sinks low, climbs high and sinks low once more, rising in timbre with each step, before culminating in a happy, dada-DA-DA! A bridge hinged on a single, static, tapped keyboard note slows everything down just long enough for you to catch your breath. The drama builds. The pay-off then comes when one of the best feel-good riffs ever concocted by someone not formally associated with Def Leppard finally kicks in. Andrew W.K., singing (actually shouting), knows exactly what to do with such a jovial vibe: get the party going. He makes repeated commands for you to “party hard, PARTY HARD.”

Listening to Andrew W.K. is like partying — a guilty pleasure you may regret later but will enjoy the hell out of while you’re at it. Some people are likely to say he’s Dokken on their best days, and snigger because of it. Thing is, the people I know who still listen to Under Lock and Key wouldn’t buy Andrew W.K.’s record if it were free. The W.K. sound is ‘80s cock rock without the cock: No elaborate guitar solos, no falsetto wails, no weak-but-laudable attempts at deeper meaning. It’s just perfectly produced gloss, a signification on swagger. Which isn’t to say it’s bereft of ego. Ego and the gigantic promotions department at Island/Def Jam have carried this Andrew W.K. project onto MTV and into the mainstream. Their audience? Apparently, cave-dwellers braving the sun for the first time, and smarter-than-thou college kids or young Britons who in their diaper days probably thought the ‘80s were rip-roaring fun. Truly, a fickle fan base.

It’s one heckuva world we live in when a white guy’s producing a blatant party record could be perceived as “shocking.” I guess it’s because children are blowing themselves up in the Middle East — and someone will write their songs, just not Andrew W.K. His desire to give the socially conscious sector a big fuck-you (see “Party Til You Puke,” track 8) is really no different than, say, Britney’s flaunting her Playboy-bunny bod. Our animal instincts are, in both cases, brought to the fore. Thought is an afterthought. The danger — and what Andrew W.K. and his bosses at Island/Def Jam probably get night sweats over — is that we, the listeners, can and will move on to the next shocking thing.

The twentysomething shouter reportedly hates not being taken seriously as a partier, so much so that, in front of a roomful of journos recently, he began slicing up his face — just to prove his commitment to the spirit of riotous rockin’. Word is he’s been “keeping it real” this way for years. He used to play solo gigs at coffeehouses across New York City, his hometown-via-Detroit, with a boombox as his only accompaniment. His path to majorlabeldom would make Cinderella look like a cautionary tale: Not too long ago current Foo Fighter and ex-Nirvana drummer David Grohl found a copy of one of Andrew W.K.’s EPs, liked it, and bada-bing, bada-boom, young Andrew was opening for the Foos and contemplating groupies.

The over-analyzers among us probably would argue that, through his exhortations to party till you puke, Andrew W.K. is perhaps unwittingly acting as a “tool” of his multinational record label; because you know, big record labels — like all other multinational corporations — want to sedate the general public into being a group of good, little, brainless consumers. These pipe-puffers would say Andrew W.K. is “bad” for you. These guys also probably don’t get out much.

So let’s say Andrew W.K. continues along the pop-metal path. How long until he becomes a joke? See, commercial mainstream music, like Andrew W.K.’s, is essentially a commercial — for whoever’s doing the “singing” or, like Britney, the rump shaking and grinding. Who gives a shit what Britney’s saying when she looks the way she does? Buying her music is tantamount to buying her, her perfect boobs and her alleged virginity and her entire history altogether. Is Andrew W.K. a product? Of course he is. And until he realizes he is, and starts acting like someone with an original thought in his head, music lovers won’t be able to take him seriously, no matter how much we love the record. We remember Poison, and we remember liking them, but that was then, when we were young and pimply and rich and spoiled and stupid. We’re all grown now, and we will need new shock-art. Next.

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