There's Dumb, and There's Just Plain Silly
Rock and roll music, at its very core, has always been inherently dumb. Whether it’s sociopolitical satire disguised as dumb (The Fugs), pop genius disguised as dumb (The Ramones), dumb disguised as profound (Creed), entertainingly dumb (Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie), or just plain moronic (Loverboy, Journey), the same old three chord, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula of Big Dumb Rock has remained relatively unchanged. The problem these days is that with the unending stream of rock bands who are either overly morose, overly angry, overly political, or overly pretentious, one other fundamental element has been missing from mainstream rock: dumb old fun. So it should hardly be a surprise that with the November 2001, UK release of Andrew WK’s debut album, I Get Wet, a hard rock album that tries desperately to be the be-all-end-all of all party records, the UK press fell over themselves praising the album. Released in Canada in early February and in America in late March, North Americans can now decide for themselves whether Andrew WK is rock’s latest savior.
The Detroit native’s bio offers much promise, with WK (his real last name is Wilkes-Krier) quoted as saying, “This record is about cutting in to the heart of existence . . . [a] celebration of possibilities, potential and opportunity.” He sounds intelligent enough, but any profundity that WK may possess is only evident in the bio. Truth is, the most memorable part of I Get Wet is its attention-grabbing, greasy-haired, bloody-nosed cover photo, one of the best rock album covers in recent memory. At its best, WK’s music is a refreshing blast of skanky air on the current stale music scene, but at its worst, it’s disappointingly monotonous, unoriginal, and very, very dumb. As deep as he thinks his music is, listening for meaning in Andrew WK’s music is akin to trying to achieve enlightenment via the beer bong. Still, its sporadic catchiness makes it hard to hate.
Don’t believe any of the gleeful critics who claim I Get Wet hearkens back to the glory days of Def Leppard, Motley Crue, or any other empty ‘80s hard rock bands. Instead of taking that predictable route, this album refreshingly copies the sound of ‘70s glam band Slade, and a little bit of Billion Dollar Babies-era Alice Cooper, a welcome change from the rest of today’s mainstream rock. Here, it’s not all tuned-down and sludgy; the album’s plentiful, unironic, tinkly keyboard accents are so ridiculously shameless, you have to admire WK for his bravery. However, the album’s one main musical downfall is its relentless, headsplitting, thumping drumbeats that never waver from the same tempo, a tactic lifted from the Aqua School of Musical Subtlety. The album sounds good enough, and has its moments, but when a 35 minute CD starts to sound monotonous halfway through, it’s not a good sign.
As for his lyrics, I’ll just say that Andrew WK’s lyrics are so hackneyed, that they make Colombian annoyance Shakira’s ravings sound deep by comparison. Take “Party Hard”, for instance: “You work all night / And when you work you don’t feel all right / And we / We can’t stop feeling all right / And everything is all right.” It’s funny enough to make you wish Steve Allen was still around to stoically recite this stuff. I don’t know if “I Love NYC” is a post 9-11 tribute, but if it is supposed to be, its uninspired lines, “I love New York City / Oh yeah / New York City” ring very hollow (especially when compared to something as genuine as Ryan Adams’ pre-9-11 “New York New York”). And what exactly does he mean when he says, “Don’t Stop Living in the Red”? Financial irresponsibility? Violence? What?
Again, it’s not all bad. “It’s Time to Party”, “Party Hard”, “Ready to Die”, and “Got to Do It” are good, meaningless rock and roll songs, catchy enough to replace “Zombie Nation” as 2002’s sports arena songs du jour, but the album’s eight other songs feebly follow the same formula. Four good songs hardly make an album that’s worth buying.
From Andrew WK’s voice, which resembles either a white suburban Fat Albert or Captain Caveman (I can’t decide which), to the album’s simple, catchy melodies (the synth intro to “Ready to Die” totally rips off the Banana Splits theme), to the gimmicky cover (that’s hogs’ blood, folks), I Get Wet is nothing but a harmless cartoon, not the Big Profound Statement WK would like us to believe. There’s a ton of potential here, but until Andrew WK completely embraces the pure, glorious idiocy of his music, he’ll just wind up looking stupid. His CD isn’t bad, but in the meantime I’ll still opt for Rob Zombie. He’s smart enough to make Big Dumb Rock work.
// Notes from the Road
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