Critical Essay on the “I GET WET” Book

Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet (33 1/3) by Phillip Crandall | Don’t Do It

I’ve always liked the 33 1/3 series. Impassioned writing about albums, pop culture as neither high nor low brow. Not really any brow. A distilled version of those sentiments you so often have delivered directly into your ear, in a loud bar or at a party, from someone who is entirely caught up, entirely enthused about THIS THING YOU HAVE TO HEAR OH MY GOD.

I was 14 when I Get Wet was released. I’m almost certainly sure that my reaction to the opus of Andrew Wilkes-Krier was the same as most reviewers of the period: what the hell is this load of cack. I was a serious adult who had no time for hair metal, or punk pop, or bubblegum — whatever this dude was peddling. Pitchfork gave I Get Wet a scathing 0.6 and insinuated that Andrew W.K. was probably, if not actually one of the four horsemen, then clearly a sign of an impending apocalypse of taste. The review seethes: “This here is about as empty as rock music gets … digitally processed tonebank noise that passes for ‘guitars’”.

As Phillip Crandall’s book explains, that “digitally processed tonebank noise” the aforementioned reviewer thinks is mechanically reclaimed keyboard slurry is in fact layers upon layers upon layers of the same guitar line. It’s like a Wall of Sound — if a Wall of Sound was mostly made up of major key power chords. The original demos were recorded in a tiny flat in Williamsburg that Andrew W.K. soundproofed himself. A relentless, sweaty box. Drum parts were produced not with the usual loops, but by Andrew W.K. playing every part over and over: “It’s fun to play the song, so why wouldn’t I want to play that part again?”.

I guess I have to now admit that my opinion changed – I learnt to love Andrew W.K. I embraced ‘Party Hard’ as the joyful paean to having a great time that it is. To me his music is fun and energetic, and well meaning. You can party together, you can party any time, you can party to forget your rubbish job – W.K even implores us to “have a crazy party by yourself!” on album opener ‘It’s Time to Party’. Sure you’re probably not going to have a spiritual awakening listening to I Get Wet but who the hell knows – maybe you might? Andrew W.K.’s music certainly gets tarred with being mindless and empty and ‘unworthy’. What even is emptiness in music? What does something need to sound like to be ‘full’? Why are so many reviewers full of such shit?

At a speech given at SXSW in 2011, Andrew W.K. comments that “the entertainment industry is the best for me to work in, because it fully acknowledges the absurdity of existence”. Here’s a dude embracing that! Let’s have fun with the music we make! Don’t be afraid to try new things! Don’t be afraid to sound weird or piss people off with time signatures or chord progressions or building a whole career around songs about partying.

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