Close Calls With Brick Walls
n the self-perpetuating mythos of 21st century rock, Andrew W.K. is often written off as mere novelty. In those heady days of 2001, when the wishful wails of British music journos stirred rock from its pseudo-slumber, he was positioned on the front lines with the Strokes and Stripes, scouring boy bands from the land. It was all wishful thinking: his two albums bombed and he has since been remembered, if at all, as a hair-metal one hit wonder. His third album Close Calls With Brick Walls came out this past summer, but only in the Far East. It may yet receive a US/UK release—but likely only after his fourth album, Young Lord, sometime in 2007. That being said, across its mammoth 22 tracks, Close Calls stretches W.K.’s super rock sound into strange new shapes. And it may just be the great lost album of ‘06.
In the interim between 2003’s The Wolf and Close Calls, W.K.’s website was “sabotaged” and a huge conspiracy about an alter ego/svengali named Steev Mike developed. It’s all too bizarre and convoluted to go into, but the best explanation of the whole unspeakably strange business can be found here. Lyrically and musically the album seems to reflect this (orchestrated?) turmoil, the “party till you die” ethos turned inwards and warped. Songs like “Slam John Against a Brick Wall” and “I Want Your Face” seem born of a frighteningly strange mindset—the familiar intensity no longer joyous, but a little unnerving. It’s the sound of a persona crumbling, fragmenting, reforming. Whilst his class of ’01 contemporaries may have remained disappointingly one note, Andrew W.K., whoever he actually may be, has extended his musical palette hugely. The spirits of former associates Wolf Eyes and Fischerspooner hang over the proceedings; a number of songs have electro-inspired frames whilst others disorientatingly fall into clammy, churning noise.
When W.K. first burst into the public consciousness, the nearest non-musical reference point was pro-wrestling. It was knuckleheaded—one-dimensional party music. Track title “The Moving Room” gives a suitable metaphor for the stylistic and psychological shiftiness that underpins this album. Many of the songs still deal in familiar death-metal-meets-Def Leppard-jock jams, but the strangeness of pieces such as “The Golden Eyed Dog” casts them in a strange new light. In “This Is My World,” he sings:
I have a view into your bedroomIt doesn’t come across as cute or endearing; in fact, it seems downright weird. Rather than the party-hard platitudes of yore, this plays the kind of lyrical games of a Byrne or a Bowie. Or he could genuinely be mentally disturbed. Only time will tell.
Where I can watch you with desire
With all the passion you inspire
I’m your secret admirer.