PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Andrew W.K.: 55 Cadillac

Andrew W.K.'s confounding muse takes him in the direction of solo piano.

Andrew W.K.

55 Cadillac

Label: Ecstatic Peace!
US Release Date: 2009-09-01
UK Release Date: 2009-09-07
Artist Website

There's this little lingering strand of incredulity that happens the first time you hear that Andrew W.K. was, as it's put in so many of the articles about him, "classically trained". He looks like the frat-guy musclehead who went to college for the babes and who's majoring in kegstands 101, and the music he released way back in '02 did nothing to dispel that notion. Sure, there's a time and a place for things like "Party Hard" and "She Is Beautiful" -- straightforward, poppy metal that has about as much subtext as a brick to the skull -- but nobody would ever mistake it for instrumental brilliance. Listen to the piano in "Party Hard", and you hear one octave pounded over and over again in straight quarter notes, a mere coat of paint on the wall of guitars the song is so proud of throwing at its listeners.

This, from a "classically trained" pianist?

55 Cadillac (sic) is probably an album that Andrew W.K. had to make, and good for him. It's a statement of not being trapped by your past, of having the sheer will to create a piece of art that falls completely and utterly out of step with all that you've previously created. On the album, Andrew W.K. proves once and for all that he is, indeed, a "classically trained" pianist, in that he can make his fingers do things on a piano that many hack performers can only dream about. In a way, I'm happy to have had the opportunity to hear 55 Cadillac, because it puts an awful lot of his other work in a new light -- that despite its one-dimensionality, the human being who created it is fully three-dimensional, and quite gifted to boot.

Still, all the classical training and finger skill in the world cannot make you a great composer, and this is where 55 Cadillac fails miserably. The vast majority of the album is simply solo piano, with the occasional sound of a passing car breaking up the tracks, giving the album the sound of somebody sitting next to a dark road in the middle of the night with his grand piano, playing to his heart's content. If this was Andrew W.K.'s intention, he achieved it. That said, the songs -- which, according to his MySpace blog "showcase [his] spontaneous piano improvisations, as well as his visualized manifestations, whatever that means -- don't fall into any sort of genre. There's no consistent mood, and there's no direction or arc to any of it. Sometimes it sounds like underdone classical tinkering, sometimes it borders on jazz, occasionally you get '50s rock 'n roll underpinnings to a floaty little melody. Sometimes, it's just a guy banging the living shit out of a poor, helpless piano.

Really, you don't have songs, you have an admittedly talented guy screwing around with a piano for 40 minutes. It'd be like bringing the local piano prodigy to a bar, downing a few drinks with him, and watching him flop around on the keys for a while: sure, he'll attract a few onlookers, curious sorts impressed at his technical skill, particularly while inebriated, but eventually it'll get old and his audience will go back to their dart games and lousy pick-up lines (at least until he gives up the improv and plays "Piano Man"). 55 Cadillac is fine background noise, but by the time five minutes have passed, you've heard all you need to hear, and you can move on to someone who actually thought about what he was writing for more than ten seconds before he played it.

On only one track do we hear anything other than the passing cars and the solo piano: the concluding four-minute track titled "Cadillac". At two minutes, a second piano appears for more layers, and a third, and then there's a drum machine, and then there's an absolutely ridiculous electric guitar that shows up and insists on comparing its endowment with the rest of the instruments around it. Finally, the whole thing ends, and Andrew W.K. finally grants us a vocal appearance, in the form of the word (what else?) "Cadillac" -- except that it sounds something like "CADILLAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOHHH", and instead of remarking that Andrew W.K. did it, he actually made an album of solo piano music that didn't sound absolutely awful, you're left wondering what the hell just happened.

55 Cadillac is a vanity project from a man who might never have seemed deep enough to warrant such a thing. The two hours or so it took him to come up with this release only goes so far as to prove that he's not.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.