[26 February 2006]
The first time I heard about Andrew W.K. was a via an article he wrote for Vice Magazine called “>Music, Partying and Love: The Holy Trinity of Raising Hell”. In it, a much skinnier, and up and coming W.K. wrote a stream-of-consciousness piece with this thoughts on the title’s three main subjects. It was also a much more graphic W.K. who threw such words as “cum-chugging” and images such as wrapping up a bunch of people in a carpet and watching them fight. At this point in his career, W.K. was just another blip in the New York scene, and his gigs were usually no more than himself, a boombox with preprogrammed tracks and a microphone.
I was just as surprised as anyone when Andrew W.K. was suddenly launched into MTV popularity with “Party Hard” and “Girl Is Beautiful”. The New York party animal that I read about was transformed into something completely slightly. The effusive energy he put into writing about partying for Vice, took a different spin by the time he reached the national spotlight. Andrew W.K. was the indie rock Tony Robbins, a erudite speaker who loved his fans, and whose internet posts and interviews brimmed with unchecked enthusiasm. It was no longer partying for partying sakes, but partying because THIS IS THE ONLY TIME WE HAVE AND WE HAVE TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT.
Who Knows? Live In Concert: 2000-2004 endeavors to document W.K.‘s first four years and promising “narration by Andrew W.K.” himself. Having witnessed the man perform live myself, a concert in which he turned the entire floor the concert of hall into a circle pit, there is no denying he can entertain an audience. Unfortunately, the video fails both in portraying the dramatic change in W.K.‘s career—from not having a band to having a band and playing around the world—and managing to make the make the man himself come across as one of the most boring people on the planet.
The DVD plays out like a concert video, intercut with backstage footage narrated by W.K. The concert footage is exactly what you would expect. Though the DVD booklet makes much of the “synch stacking” process that manages to align the audio performance from a variety of different settings, it can’t hide the fact that W.K.‘s excessively multitracked CDs sound fairly limp live. His concerts are more about the spectacle of the man himself, than an impressive audio representation of his work.
But the most disappointing portion of the disc is W.K.‘s narration. For a man so given to energetic interviews and passionate speeches, he is bizarrely subdued here. The portions of video which he speaks over are slowed way down and accented by quasi-horror music. Coupled with W.K.‘s slow, sonorous delivery it feels like you’re watching outtakes of The Ring. The substance of what he actually says is fairly forgettable as well. The listener gets nothing of the recording process, the difference in playing between small venues and huge concerts, or even how he feels about meeting every single fan after every show. Furthermore, we never get a clear idea of why or how Andrew W.K. went from party animal to party philosopher.
Who Knows? Live In Concert: 2000-2004 ends with same question it begins with. It offers all the energy but none of the fuel. The DVD booklet’s introduction by his father hints at family involvement and inspiration in his career but goes no further than speaking elliptically around the issue. The extensive bio fills in a few more of the blanks, but for now, fans will have continue to party to Andrew W.K. but the man himself still keeps at an enigmatic distance.