ALBUM REVIEW: "I Get Wet" Dissected

Classic Album Review: Andrew W.K. - "I Get Wet" (2001)

By Mark Hammond

Whenever I sit at my desk to write, I always seem to find a mountain of writer’s aids around me. Not useful things of course, such as a thesaurus or an inspirational poem in a frame. The objects in question are more in line with a trail of things which I consume.

A rider if you will, although an entirely unplanned one. A few years back, my writer’s rider would have included a packet of Marlboro Reds, maybe some Lucozade and a fifth of brandy.

Recently, I found that my accumulated filth was somewhat more wholesome. This must have been an long time coming, but it still took me by surprise. Fennel tea in a Mondrian mug. A bottle of aspartame, sugar and taste-free lemonade. Headphones and a cut-out from an article about Great British poet John Betjeman.

God, I’ve changed.

Somewhere behind me, the shadow of my 17 year-old self is looking at me and wondering where the party in me flew off to, and I can’t really blame him either.

And so, in my hour of desperation, I look to my Ghost of Party Past, Present and Future, all in a Dickensian whirlwind stolen straight from the pages of seasonal classic A Christmas Carol.

Back in 2001, Andrew WK’s debut I Get Wet landed upon an unsuspecting world, and divided opinion like Marmite and Communism.

LISTEN TO "I GET WET"

NME hacks hailed him as “The Saviour of Rock ‘n’ Roll” while others wrote him off entirely, scorning and calling him every name under the sun, or even as “a total dick” (if you’re my very own father).

At seventeen, I was too headstrong as to not be swayed by either opinion, but if you can show me a teenager who isn’t influenced by what they deem cool, I’ll show you a total liar.

After seeing him perform Party Hard on TV, I went out and bought I Get Wet. And, lordy, it blew me away.

2001 wasn’t shy of excellent albums. Weezer had made a triumphant return with The Green Album after the love-lorn musings of their classic Pinkerton cut, The White Stripes and The Strokes were in their infancy and shaping the future of guitar-driven rock, and it was also the same year where I first discovered The Shins, too. A band who I still follow religiously today and are one of the main reasons I took up writing in the first place. 2001 also offered up the finest work in the careers of Daft Punk, Muse and Basement Jaxx, lest we forget.

But true to the spirit of Charles Dickens, Dear Uncle Andrew (the Ghost of Party Past by this stage) just didn’t fit in with any available genre, apart from those stuck firmly in the past and before the world got their Spandex in a twist over the neo-irony bull slung by The Darkness a couple of years later.

From the opening bars of It’s Time To Party, the word in question is mentioned over fifteen times in under two minutes, all without a single shred of irony.

Not fitting in and just wanting a good time, all the time, his appeal to me lay in the fact that he seemed less like a rock god and more like the irrepressible and irresponsible friend who would forever urge you to just go that little further when one is caught up in the moment of life’s base pleasures, whether it was drinking, dancing or just letting yourself go entirely. Having left going to alternative rock nights and gigs until my late youth, Andrew was the man to look up to.

His uniform of chinos, a white t-shirt and white running shoes (an image he’s proudly upheld ever since) just made him that little more fly. To me it spoke volumes, although it was completely nondescript. It acted as notepad for the night’s stains and drinks, all serving as reminders of where the man himself had been during his exploits. Whether he’d been shredding on the piano doing one finger routines (all the more surprising given that he’s classicaly trained and a multi-instrumentalist, with emphasis on the ‘mentalist’). Clearly, this man was the Lord Byron of party metal. “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

When you stop for a moment, it’s strange that the music separated opinion, given that its intentions were as pure as AWK’s outfit.

Following on from the first track, Party Hard belts out a motto that a generation of delusional youth (albeit jolly ones) could anthemically sing in their local after a shandy or two. And not even in the way that Oasis captured the spirit of the knuckle dragger stuck in the mid ’90s ten years previous. There was no high art or mysticism here. Just outright fun and an unstoppable moxie.

The album continues, peaking up to a beautifully fresh outlook in both Ready to Die, and I Love NYC.

Coming out in November 2001, one would assume that the song was written before the atrocities of 9/11, and that made the song all the more beautiful when looking back. Here’s a man who loves New York, not just based on jingoistic flag waving and Government pressure, but because of the night life and atmosphere of a city that, like himself, never sleeps and will never admit defeat.

She Is Beautiful is very much rooted in the same artery. A love song. Basic yes, but instead of a city, it’s about a girl this time. In the same way that art critics look upon cave paintings as sunshine fresh declarations of honesty, so we should look at I Get Wet as a form of Outsider Art in itself. WK is a man who expresses his emotions sans any airs or graces, and the message hits hard enough to give you a nose bleed for your life’s album cover.

My personal highlight of the album is the guitar and synth trumpet-driven title track.

In I Get Wet, our man Andy has pretty much just been waxing upon the ideas that he focused on in the first few songs. This, for me, is when the album reaches its climax. A wash of over-dubbed female vocals, a euphoric refrain and black-and-white lyricism of how when a party is dying, WK dies with it- as it’s the reason he must keep on.

He plays the Biblical Samson and the party is his hair. When cut off, he’s powerless.

The album’s close, Don’t Stop Living In The Red, feels a tad rushed, but come the end of this 36 minutes, the feeling garnered is post coital. After something so refreshing and pleasurable, it’s hard to not “feel fucked” and in need of a quick pull on your e-cigarette.

And here we are, less than an hour later.

Drained and awash wish endorphins delivered by a man who went on to become a motivational speaker yet looks like one of Thor’s brothers who teaches a daycare class and whom him and Loki never speak of.

It takes some balls to drop your first album with sleeve art that looks like something off Cops. This record was hard rock for the masses. So much so, in fact, that even Island Records had such faith in him to sign him for I Get Wet, and you can’t blame them for taking the chance.

As I write now, I still visit the album from time to time, usually when life’s rich pagaent is getting a bit too serious for my tastes, and The Ghost of Party Present and Future are there alongside me.

Party Present is telling me that to just keep on keeping on, and showing me the stark importance of remaining true to yourself. Party Future is telling me that the heart of the party is not how much you consume, but how much fun you can have from day to day.

To paraphrase a line from The Terminator, “In a hundred years time, who’s going to remember?”

If diet lemonade and dog walking are your thing, that’s where the party is. It doesn’t matter if some thug-spanking meat-n-potatoes lad rocker laughs at your ways, he’s welcome to join the party too! Partying is acceptance and it’s love. It’s everything that’s correct in a world so easily consumed with fear and judgement. It’s welcoming, it’s pure.

It’s dancing like a loon or talking to a stranger, it doesn’t matter. Life’s too short and beautiful to get bogged down in such petty matters as personal differences. Trouser up, and party down. Also, if you think I’ve said the word “party” too much, just listen to the album.

It’s a faith that can’t be bought, but one that is earned. Andrew’s debut was on par with that of the Polyphonic Spree, but whereas the ‘Spree wish to reassure people, WK instilled the confidence to raise people back on top of their game.

Was the album cover due to cocaine abuse, high blood pressure or a mosh pit mishap? Who knows? And who cares? That’s the point. I Get Wet advocated nothing bad, it only accentuated the positive. And there’s something so sweet about that, that all explanations are fine left unanswered.

Party on.

Click here if you want to listen in person

This news item was posted on: September 25, 2013