If Frank Zappa ever chose one musical persona, and then pushed that persona to the bounds of absurdity, instead of achieving absurdity by adopting a host of personae, he would sound like Andrew W.K. And the music would be something ferocious. Imagine being pummeled about the head with Glam Rock hooks circa Twisted Sister, while Slayer played full-blast in the background.Yet Andrew W.K. is not angry. And they do not want to share your pain. They may indeed want to share your beer, or more likely your keg, and – as the title of a song off their upcoming release may suggest – encourage you to Party Till You Puke.
But Andrew W.K. is not a persona. They are in-the-moment, in-your-face, in-your-sister’s-pants rock and roll. And Mr. W.K. is as earnest as a high school motivational speaker: “when you’ve been given so many miracles, being alive being able to breathe and be happy, (playing music) is just a miracle on top of a miracle. It is a privilege; to do anything less than my best would be a disgrace,” said Mr. W.K. in an interview with The Michigan Daily.
So why are some having a hard time deciding whether or not to take these guys seriously? It is probably because the music itself appears to be pure hyperbole. The track list for Monday’s show included Fun Night, Party Till You Puke, Girls Own Juice, It’s Time to Party and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Party Hard. Repetitive? Yes. Moronic? Probably. But as catchy as the common cold, in a shotgun-a-can-of-adrenaline kind of way.
There can be no doubt Andrew W.K. is over-the-top. But what distinguishes Mr. W.K. from the Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park hordes is his evangelical, unfeigned approach to music: “It’s the truth. This music is the truth and it’s also freedom. It’s so big, so huge and so spanning. So many things, so much, and so true. This is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened in the history of human kind.” So when he sings “we’re gonna have fun and we’re gonna get wasted” you get the impression that he means it not as a statement of empirical fact, but as a declaration that ‘anything is possible, and we’re going to do whatever the Hell we want’ (although there is the high likelihood this will land them somewhere near a kegger, and in a highly agitated state).
On stage AWK is a phalanx of sound. There are four guitarists, a drummer, and Mr. W.K. on keyboards and vocals. It is a unique metal act that employs the piano in a non-ballad context. “My number one influences in this world are potential energy and piano”, explains Mr. W.K. The piano serves as a bulwark against the tirade of sound the band, many of them veterans of the Floridian death metal scene, unleashes.
It is Mr. W.K.’s kinetic energy, of course, that grabs you. Fist pumping, jump kicking, head banging and crowd-surfing his way through the show, Mr. W.K. is a dervish of brawn and fucked-up bravado.
Although maybe not The Truth, there is something primal and compelling about AWK. It is what you listened to when you got your first beer buzz. It is loud, defiant, mindless, and adolescent. It is, in short, rock and roll at its puerile best: Anarchy hangs out at Recidivism’s house on a Friday night, and brings along a beer bong.
Andrew W.K. will be returning to Detroit April 5, at St. Andrew’s Hall. Their album I Get Wet is available March 26 on Island/Def Jam.