Wednesday, November 05, 2008
If you want to have a big rock 'n roll party hit in the 2000s - one that will be played ad nauseum by irony-loving college students at parties for years to come - logic would dictate that it would have to be big, loud, and ridiculously campy. At least that's been the trend: the Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," the Electric Six's "Danger! High Voltage" and the Killers' entire discography* are big fat attention-getters all. In the age of r'n'b and rap's dominance, rock 'n roll seems to appeal more to mainstream tastes when it's presented as novelty - a fun, goofy diversion reminding folks of a bygone era. (Of course, this is also the decade of Coldplay, so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.)
Andrew W.K., more than anybody in the world, is guilty of propagating this trend. Once the absolutely insane "Party Hard" hit America's airwaves, the world was never quite the same. It was one of those rare songs that appealed to critics and jocks alike - critics heard it as an utterly bloated parody of macho party rock, and jocky dudes just viewed it as a badass party anthem. This, of course, raised the eternal question: was this "Andrew W.K" just a big joke, or did he take this whole party-hearty persona seriously?
The answer - surprise surprise! - is somewhere in between. W.K., clearly, understands that what he is doing is ridiculous, and yet his dedication to making his ridiculous music as infectious and funny as possible obviously shows that he views it as much more than an ironic joke. The way I see it, the guy wants to make party anthems that are as funny as they are sing-alongable, and I Get Wet is a success on these terms. Most critics will tell you that every song on this album is essentially the same - they're all adrenaline-fueled, processed-guitar-filled, shouted anthems encouraging constant partying and beer guzzling. And for the most part, this is true, and it isn't a bad thing because the formula is fun as a nugget - it's the kind of album that begs to be blasted at parties. What makes the songs funny, though, is the way they're presented; almost every song on the album kicks off with a goofy 80's styled non-rock instrument intro (the cheesy horns in the title track, the Casio keyboard in "Ready to Die," the epic synth strains in "Don't Stop Living In The Red") and dependably kicks into high gear with lightning-fast beats, giant guitars and W.K.'s constantly howled lyrics. It's kind of hard to take this music 100 percent seriously when the intros are so self-consciously silly.
Maybe the funniest aspect of I Get Wet is Andrew W.K.'s personality - throughout the album, you get the impression that this guy just wants to get the fuck down and have a good time, and absolutely NOTHING is going to stop him. It doesn't even matter if he isn't singing about partying; while you might expect "Ready to Die" to be some dark metallic epic or "She Is Beautiful" to be a power ballad, both burst through with the same irrepressibly positive energy as the rest of the album. Hearing W.K. shout lyrics like "I never knew girls existed like you / but now that I do, I'd really like to get to know you" with full frat-boy sincerity is just very very funny.
I Get Wet is a very pop-oriented album, though. Beyond the frat-rock novelty, there are some really fun, catchy songs here that aren't simply "Party Hard" rewrites - "Girls Own Love," with its hilariously misogynist lyrics ("You've got to make her understand / That you are a man"), seems almost like a stab at power-pop, and the over-the-top "Got To Do It," a synth-horn-laden tribute to overcoming all of life's obstacles, might be one of my favorites on the album. He even attempts bizarre electro-pop on "Fun Night," which makes a lot more sense when you hear it than it does on paper. Despite these fun little diversions, however, the overall feeling of the album is still epic party-rock, and what makes I Get Wet so damned special is its positivity. There is no angst, no depression, no darkness to be found here; it's just one big party. "Party Hard", despite its slight over-playedness, might be one of my favorite songs of this decade just because it is THE perfect party anthem - fast, incomprehesibly loud, and funny as hell. If I am drunk at a good party, I will not stop bitching until this song is played. Pure and simple.
This album came out in 2001, but Andrew W.K.'s dream of one big, long, stupid party is still something we need in 2008. I'm a little upset that his output petered out after 2003's The Wolf (which I still haven't heard) because this kind of formula is something I imagine would be a lot of fun to hear again every few years, not unlike AC/DC or the Ramones. In the age of Mars Volta and Muse, the concept of one big ol' party sounds more and more appealing. Hell, it's always appealing.
Bottom line: if you don't like Andrew W.K. GROW A FUCKING PAIR YOU PANSY-MAN, THIS SHIT IS KILLER!!!