Up until last year, I found it extremely difficult to take rocker Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krierotherwise known as Andrew W.K.seriously.
I had seen him a couple of times at Riot Fest ( where he seems to have an annual residency ) and viewed some of his highly caffeinated and intensely joyful videos ( "Go Go Go Go," the theme song for the 2012 World Snowboarding Championships that is so damn jolly it makes you want to pick up a truck and shake it like a maraca ), all of which seemed to skirt screwball comedy wedded to a heavy metal soundtrack. Eternally clad in white and routinely performing with soggy shoulder-length hair whipping in all directions with a permanent smile chiseled on his kisser ( he gives Burt Lancaster a run for his money ), he came across like a jacked-up clown. I mean, no one stays that positive all of the time, right?
After that last presidential election which was the harbinger of far worse than anyone in his or her right mind could have imagined, I have to see W.K.'s message of hope and positivity as a blast of nourishment from the heavens. This brings us to his first album in 12 years, You're Not Alone ( on Skyscraper Music Maker Records, and a thouroughly bonkers show at The Vic Theater on May 12.
Surprisingly enough, the album belies a degree of charm underneath all the heavy-metal trappings, upfront hooks and soaring melodies, and it reveals W.K. as a great big softie at heart. On his debut and further into his discography ( I Get Wet and Party Til You Puke, among others, all on Island Records ) he seemed to revel in a frat-boy stupor that was funbut only that. The first single here, "You're Not Alone," sounds like vintage Meatloaf despite the song's six-foot-deep sheet of sound, and rather then wallow in endless mayhem, it hints at a certain darkness ( though it does not say it up front it sounds like an anti-suicide rocker ).
The clincher here is the midtempo "Party Mindset," which sounds like it was made for summertime convertible driving down Lake Shore Drive while other rockers like "The Party Never Dies" recall AM rock radio from the '70s. "The Power of Partying" is clearly W.K. wallowing in goofiness and it recalls Wilhelm Richard Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries" while sounding supremely over the top.
If the album seemed limited by it's subject matter ( "uplift," "winning," "staying strong," blah, blah, blah ) his show at The VIc was a knees-up display of pure fury for the greater good and an upfront sincerity at play. Standing center stage between a row of four guitarists, all of whom whipped their long hair like some ersatz S/M version of The Supremes, W.K. was all flailing punches, spraying sweat, and glow-in-the-dark teeth and it was obvious that he was more than just a heavy metal cheerleader. On hardcore rockers like "Tear It Up," "Party Party Party," "Party Hard," "Never Let Down" and "You're Not Alone," he smartly took the volume of metal, the passion of punk and the hooks of pop and refashioned them into near addictive anthems meant to be shouted out by thousands in a sports arena.
There's nothing remotely wrong with that, especially when you realize there's nothing suspect about his message; no politics, no religion, no agendajust have yourself a merry time. Better still, it's clear that his interpretation of the word "party" translates as "celebrate" and his non-stop athleticism for the entire show was proof of a healthy lifestyle. At 39 years of age, this version of Andrew W.K. is exactly what we need right now.