‘Close Calls with Brick Walls/Mother of Mankind’ | Andrew W.K

| Cadenza Reporter

Reemerging from the depths of middle-school playlists with the same unexpected voracity as Ricky Martin, Andrew W.K. recently came out with his long-awaited (or long since forgotten) third album: “Close Calls With Brick Walls/Mother of Mankind.” The album isn’t exactly new material; it was released back in 2006 but for some reason only saw light in Japan and Korea. Nevertheless, if “Close Calls” feels dated, it’s much more 1986 than 2006.

When Andrew W.K. came out with his first album “I Get Wet” in 2001, a lot of fans were dumbstruck by the implausibility of the character they were presented with. Somewhere in between the positive self-help vibe and the heavy-metal biker rock sound, there seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions. Fans weren’t the only ones, many critics and industry insiders had their doubts, arguing that Andrew W.K. was corporate construction as he seemed to appear from nowhere.

These accusations continued for a number of years, often quite maliciously, and, to make a long story short, last September, Andrew came out saying that his persona “was created by a large group of people…I may not be exactly who you thought I was, and that the guy who was, in fact, first hired as Andrew W.K. is a different person than the guy sitting here on the stage tonight. I’m the next person who is playing Andrew W.K.”

While “Close Calls” was recorded before the Andrew W.K. identity cracked, its release after the fact gives the album an interesting vantage point. Listening to it can feel somewhat like watching pro wrestling—you know the personas, the hits and the violence is all fake, but you still can’t help flinching when a chair gets smashed over someone’s head. And while the corporate calculation underpinning the whole enterprise might give it a sense of cheapness, the party-hard happiness of Andrew W.K.’s signature power metal ballads still have their sincerity. These familiar tunes are not in short supply on the 22 track LP. Some, like “You Will Remember Tonight” and “I Want to See You Go Wild,” are among the artist’s best, whereas others, specifically the last four tracks of the album, aren’t worth a second listen.

The overall message of the album is also typical of what we would expect from Andrew W.K. The songs are about making the most of every moment, partying hard and staying up late with your best buds. While the message is meaningful, there’s not a lot of deep or profound poetry behind it. Tracks like “Not Going to Bed” are literally about, well, not going to bed. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Interspersed between the often redundant stadium anthems are a smattering of thrown styles ranging from proggy, Zappa-esque interludes, to Phillip Glass minimalism, to noise rock experimental gurgling. These are features not seen on the two previous albums, and perhaps the surest sign that the Andrew W.K. character was starting to break down. While much of the work still relies on the Van Halen and Motorhead tropes that Andrew W.K. has successfully extrapolated from in the past, these new elements seem to be pulled from as many different genres as possible, and unfortunately, the artist seems to have neither the talent nor budget to back these up. Still, with four or five great ballads on the album, these oddities are a little easier to listen to.

For fans of:Van Halen, Motorhead, Frank Zappa, Partying, Self-Help Books

Tracks to download:‘You Will Remember Tonight,’ ‘Pushing Drugs,’ ‘I Want To Go Wild’