Andrew W.K.- Close Calls With Brick Walls/ Mother of Mankind
(Steev Mike Recordings)
By Daniel Cairns
Music, like everything, is completely subjective. Chances are you’ll like something that someone hates, and vice versa. Matters are confused even more by the very fact that as you grow ever older and wiser, you yourself will become much more discerning about what you permit yourself to hear. For instance, as a young idiot hesher, I couldn’t see past Pantera. Nowadays though, I can’t hear the opening riff to Cowboys from Hell without breathing a palpable sigh of ennui.
Basically, all our parents were right about rock music. It goes in one ear and comes out the other. If I ever hit the ripe old age of 42, there’s no chuffing way I’ll still be listening to Napalm Death or Cryptopsy. My wife (who will either be Lady Gaga, Winona Ryder or Fatima Whitbread) would find it utterly shameful, and our kids, Huey, Dewy and Mustafa, wouldn’t want to speak to me.
For the longest time, I couldn’t think of a single band or artist who would bring solidarity to my dysfunctional future family unit. Just what would we stick on in the spacemobile on our yearly jaunts to Uranus without causing all out civil war?
For hours I pondered this. Days even. Sat by the light of my computer screen, alcoholic tendencies in one hand, penis in the other, I went insane like an eldritch horror character, rendered feverous with frenzied concern.
Who would save my marriage?
And then the answer came this very morning. A package that presented both instant gratification, and long term salvation.
It was the return of Andrew W.K.
Mr W.K. has always been something of a curio. In a genre drowing in the tepid stew of its own self pity, he burst onto the scene like a kaleidoscopic bastardisation of Jimmy Saville and George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher. The utterly peerless I Get Wet, which hit at the turn of the century, was completely unprecedented. Consisting of a dozen anthems, chronicling the fun and frolics of a confident fun loving man in his early twenties, it mixed the immediacy of grunge with the decadence of hair metal, bereft of the self loathing that permeated both. Though following release The Wolf was also fantastic, it didn’t quite reach the same heights as it’s awe inspiring predecessor.
It’s been years since our man has released anything on these shores. Owing to complicated legal wrangles, he’s been unable to properly release anything since his sophomore effort.
Following his daring instrumental record Cadillac 55, the Western world can finally enjoy his 2006 opus Close Calls With Brick Walls. And good lord can we enjoy it. It builds upon the foundations of his earlier ouevre, and adds lashings of experimentation to the mix. As before there are numerous odes to the art of fun, but there’s a newfound maturity to the proceedings. There are tunes where you can flail around and engage in borderline illicit activities with those of the opposite (or same) sex, but there are gentler moments, moments where one can stop and ponder. ‘Why do we party? Do we party to define our lives? Or do we live for the party?’ These moments of introspection though often give way to another all out fun assault, as if to say ‘to question the ethics of partying is futile. Let’s just do it on the couch.’
That the record wasn’t released at the time is a travesty. In an increasingly stale musical environment, it’s somewhat discouraging that this iconoclastic, maverick savant can be stifled so. There’s more creativity and disregard for conservative convention in ten seconds of his music than in the entire career of a freeform jazz musician from New Orleans. Who else has managed to create such a cohesive amalgamation of Slayer and Elton John?
But that’s not all. Along with Close Calls With Brick Walls, Mr W.K. has added an extra CD, called Mother of Mankind. This part of the collection consists of 21 unreleased tracks spanning his entire career, and, as with everything the man does, it’s spectacular. That these songs were deemed unworthy of release is astonishing in itself. These are pop metal odes to joy that render everything in the commerical sphere utterly futile. It also properly shows the full breadth of the man’s proficiency with the musical form, as there are wildly experimental dabblings in reggae, electronica, ambient music and piano-led balladry. In a way, he’s somewhat comparable to Mike Patton, although Andrew W.K’s experimentation is much more palatable.
This brings me back to my previous point. Remember my meanderings regarding how all music has a shelf life, and how it’s all subjective? Well, I believe Andrew W.K. is the one man who can bring uniformity to the whole process. I truly believe that Andrew W.K is to music, what Ghandi was to peace.
You see, Andrew W.K. transcends. Never before has anyone created art that is so of its time, yet also so timeless. More than any other musician, he appeals to people of all creed, colour and age. Everyone from my illegitimate son Gomez to my dead Grandfather has found something enjoyable in his music. His music evokes everything from childlike exuberance to wisened joy. It is the music that will stop my future family clawing at each other’s necks. It is the music that Huey, Dewy and Mustafa will be conceived to. It’s the music I’ll be listening to when I convince my future wife to let me try anal.
You should buy this record for many reasons. It’s fantastic, life affirming, overwhelmingly positive, fearless and inspiring. However, it’s also an artistic triumph, and a testament to the knowledge that one man can make a difference. One man can indeed forge a life doing exactly what he wants. One man can bring many together in unity, and one man can party extremely bloody hard.
Have an unruly child? Buy him this album. Can’t agree with a work colleague? Buy him this album. Wife threatening divorce? Buy her this album. I’m not exaggerating when I say this record could change, and ultimately save your existence.