The Ongoing Critical Argument Around Andrew W.K. Turns Funny.

Sunday, 07 March 2010

Long before "performance art" was even a twinkle in the eyes of James Franco or Joaquin Phoenix, Andrew W. K. was showing up to interviews with blood and vomit on stained t-shirts. Was it all schtick? Did he take the "Party Hard" lyrics seriously? People often joked that W.K. stood for "Who Knows?"

His first release of party pop anthems was unleashed in 2001, a confusing turn of the century world where rock critics were lauding the indulgent static-filled noise rock of Microphones and the bluesy minimalism of The White Stripes. In that time, the messianic Julian Casablancas and his heavenly Strokes were set to deliver Rock N' Roll once and for all.

The elite had no time to ponder over whether or not Andrew W.K. took himself seriously. By the time bro beer and the folks at Jackass picked up his tracks for their promos, Pitchfork & co. had written him off entirely.

Now though, one marriage and one brief gig as a self-help, new-age motivational speaker later, Andrew W. K. has admitted that his debut was kind of a performance. Now in on the joke, Pitchfork has done a double take on his old work. Today's pop culture diptych: what Pitchfork had to say about I Get Wet in its 2002 review, and today:

1) From the July 7, 2002 review of I Get Wet:

"It's catchy" is no kind of argument. Every pop song you've ever truly hated is catchy. "It's ironic" is wack, too, since there's exactly zero irony to be had on any of I Get Wet or in WK's motivational interviews. (Rating: 0.6)

2) Comments on I Get Wet in the March 2, 2010 review of Close Calls with Brick Walls/Mother of Mankind:

I Get Wet is a work of impeccable production and serious craftsmanship, every chorus and key-change in its exact right place. If it was part of a joke, it was dizzily well-rendered. (Rating: 6.8)

As an occasional indie rock critic, I’ve heard the siren song of the canned “their old stuff is better” critique. I understand the strong hipster temptations of wanting to seem so up on the latest that you can already criticize it, and wanting to evoke nostalgia for an idealized recent past. Resisting these tendencies can be hard, but, for the sake of decent journalism, you have to ignore the call of snobbery every now and then to give a new album an honest appraisal. Before you pull the “their old stuff is better” card, browse your archives to make sure that you liked their old stuff to begin with.

Whether, you view Andrew’s music as “bubblegum, in its purest, stickiest form,” and “as empty as rock music gets” (Pitchfork, 2002) or “a work of impeccable production and serious craftsmanship,” (Pitchfork, 2010), you can’t deny that the man’s enthusiasm is infectious. Ever the advocate of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Andrew routinely tweets party tips.

Andrew’s piece of advice from Tuesday was this: "Laughter is the greatest natural drug that we have access to. It just feels SO good! Laugh until you cry today!"

I sincerely hope that Andrew W.K. – man, musician, performance artist, motivational speaker – awoke every morning this week laughing at Pitchfork Media.


Further Reading:

Ground Control's 2009 interview with Andrew W.K.


A reissue that combines Close Calls With Brick Walls and Mother Of Mankind will be released by Steev Mike on March 23, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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