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Andrew W.K. - 55 Cadillac

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Artist: Andrew W.K.

Album: 55 Cadillac

Label: Skyscraper Music Maker

Review date: Oct. 2, 2009

Musically, Andrew W.K.’s improvised piano record 55 Cadillac is a throwaway and a New Critic would simply ignore it. The compositions are straight interludes, not classical so much as pops, occasionally reminiscent of dramatic film moments or the lobby of a nicer Hyatt. They’re hackneyed in a way that obviates a distinction between originals and covers. There’s a little revving flourish between songs, hopefully from Wilkes-Krier’s very own prized Cadillac. A soaring metal tease at the very end suggests Party Hard Time III: Hungry Like the Wolf is just around the corner, but no. Prudent.

Three possibilities:

    I. He doesn’t know it’s bad.
    II. It’s a joke.
    III. He wants to say something, and the album format is his most accessed platform.

I Get Wet (2001) surfed a schism is rock music, forcing pop into collision with both noise (from which Wilkes-Krier came) and the totally annoying mainstream ascendance of emo. Both in the music and through his public persona, Wilkes-Krier argued forcefully for joy, following one’s heart, spontaneity, and the ecstasy of a tight hook. This seems in retrospect not unlike the emergence of highly listenable Minimalism from the “difficult” 12-Tone school. I Get Wet was fun to listen to, but the statement was thrilling: listening to and loving pop music was OK; cleaving solely to the underground was a little false. In college radio, he helped us feel radical in succumbing to what sounded great to everyone else. People fought about it.

So let’s eliminate Possibility I. Andrew W.K. is a philosopher of the masses. If this were an Anthony Kiedis record it would mean something else. (Of course that’s impossible because Kiedis doesn’t know how to play any instruments.)

And as for Possibility II, this seems like rather a lot of effort for a pot shot, particularly coming from someone who professes absolute sincerity. (Maybe it’s a huge elaborate life-joke.)

These days everyone is cranking that Superman (and getting Superman high). The metal Andrew W.K. worked himself out of a job. Some sort of transition for the moniker was necessary, but the meaning here is obscure.

Here’s my best guess: Wilkes-Krier loves to play the piano. He took piano lessons as a child. Making music is a huge source of joy to him. He hopes that he can inspire the cynical adults who listen to his records to make their own music, and maybe to stop creating a hierarchy of artistic value between music made in private pleasure and music made for public consumption. Learning to play “Maple Leaf Rag” and listening to your friend/daughter/father play it in a recital is a state of grace.


By Josie Clowney

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