Another Brick in the Wall
Who is Andrew WK? A party-crazy ’80s metal throwback? An actor hired by a corporate entity? A talented rock’n’roll musician? All of these things? Trying to discern the truth in the Andrew WK controversy can get complicated, if you’re even trying. Yet with the recent wide release of his not-exactly-new album Close Calls with Brick Walls the question is suddenly hard to ignore.
The album was originally released in 2006 in Japan, but due to mysterious legal issues it has not been released in the U.S. until now. Some have speculated they were related to one of AWK’s motivational speeches (!) in London in 2008. In it he claimed to be the product of a committee of people who got together “in the spirit of commerce,” and even hinted at not actually being the same “Andrew WK” behind the debut I Get Wet album.
He has since done several interviews where he’s very vague about clarifying those comments, but the basic idea seems to be this: He is a corporate product, but he really does love people and wants to entertain them, and the people who made him a product wish not to be named. The committee that created him seems to be represented by a man named Steev Mike, credited as producer on all of Andrew WK’s albums except for 2003’s The Wolf, and Close Calls was delayed because of a songwriting credit dispute with him. Got all that?
So what about the music itself? Amid all the controversy, is Close Calls with Brick Walls even worth hearing? Well, yes and no. There are almost two dozen songs on this album, and it’s been combined with Mother of Mankind, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks. Many of the songs are hard to tell apart, but one thing that does stand out is a difference in arrangement from previous albums.
On Close Calls, Andrew WK seems to embrace a more stripped-down, piano-driven style. Songs like “I Come for You” could even be described as pretty, and the title track is a meandering ballad instead of the monster jam you might expect. Even the not-so-pretty, harder-partying songs like “Las Vegas, Nevada” and “I Want to See You Go Wild” feature Andrew’s piano skills, and he’s actually very good.
However, songs such as “When I’m High” or “Don’t Call Me Andy” still sound eerily similar to manufactured hair metal from the 1980s with a little twist of ’70s MOR rock. If you like that style, then by all means give Andrew WK a chance. For what it’s worth, he’s a legitimately talented performer, and much like Meat Loaf before him, if you enjoy the songs, it doesn’t really matter much who wrote them.