As enigmatic and disconcertingly earnest as he remains, Andrew WK has only just started to open up to the rest of the world. Recent words with the Guardian found him discussing/admitting to things like ‘creative teams’ and promising ‘no more computerized yelling or acting coaches’ with regards his future. You almost certainly remember his past – lots of white, a bloody nose, sincere and profound lyrical mediations upon the concept of The Party, banging tunes. If that Andrew WK was a major label assisted pop culture construct, who is he now?
Perhaps the answer can be found on Close Calls With Brick Walls, his ‘lost’ third album afforded a well-deserved international release. CCWBW is essentially the convoluted follow up to his criminally under-rated second effort, The Wolf. After he failed to set the world alight in terms of record sales, he was dropped, came up against personal and creative problems (as the title alludes) and made this, a heady and ambitious double album with a little help from Gumball’s Dom Fleming and alt-rock Renaissance man, Matt 'don’t mention Billy Corgan’ Sweeny.
Andrew WK’s preoccupation with duality is still very much apparent on this record, manifesting itself in the jarring way he juxtaposes diverse musical styles. There are the obligatory Party Metal tunes such as the awesome, hook-loaded rush of 'You Will Remember Tonight' and less awesome 'Not Going To Bed', the latter being the kind of tosh only the Bam Margeras of this world would find remotely cool. The album’s sound and feel is the first noticeable change. Previous albums have seen Andrew WK practicing musical minimalism for maximum impact – a few, traditional rock instruments, multi-tracked to sweet oblivion. CCWBW, though, features Andrew singing raw and pure, jettisoning the overtly compressed style of yore. Opener, 'I Came For You', sets the scene, all guttural emoting and a decidedly non-Party vibe. It segues into 'Close Calls With Bal Harbour', droning, slowly throbbing synths like the incidental music of Miami Vice on acid. Even better is 'Pushing Drugs', a propulsive slab of staccato, synthetic white-boy funk.
“I can roll out of sink with the beat of the rink cos I roll on my own terms” Andrew reminds us on 'One Brother', ironically as close as he gets to his ‘classic’ sound on this record. But that’s fine as the chorus is, of course, Mount fucking Fuji huge. 'Dr Dumount' eases the pace, being a mournful, moving piano piece akin to his recent work on 55 Cadillac. It sticks out like a sore thumb even in this experimental context and is all the more affecting for it. The weirdness doesn’t abate – 'Golden Eyed Dog' sees our hero shouting over a viciously plucked bassline and nothing else whilst 'Slam John Against A Brick Wall' starts off as a mantra of the song’s title before breaking off into an instrumental coda, the likes of which Bill Conti would die for. 'Don’t Call Me Andy' is Phil Spector on steroids. 'I Want To See You Go Wild' has a breakdown of Earth Wind and Fire proportions, a perfect addition to a song that urges and prompts giddy, exuberant abandon. 'The Background' builds itsself around an off beat with Andrew yearning and reaching falsetto over churning guitars. Closer, 'The Moving Room', is that classic Andrew WK vibe – universal heartbeat rock music, Bruce Springsteen for the ATP generation.
Packaged with this mind meltingly expansive offering is Mother of Mankind, a collection of even rarer nuggets. Treats abound – the 8-bit body rock of 'Big Party'; the balls out 'Hair Metal of High Five' and 'Let’s Go On A Date'; the hazy psychedelia of 'Young Lord', which basks in the same lysergic sun rays as Panda Bear. Best of all must surely be 'I Want Your Face', essentially Annie Lennox’s 'Walking on Broken Glass' goes Orange County punk-pop set to lyrics about Andrew’s other favorite subjects after partying: façade and deception.
“The face that you see in the mirror/won’t be the same face when you look at it hours from now” sings Andrew WK on Close Calls With Brick Walls. The product of too much partying or a deeper rumination on his ever evolving creative journey? As the great man’s name implies – Who Knows?
8Rich Hanscomb's Score