Andrew W.K., 'The Wolf' (Island)

6
The Wolf
Critical Mass
Label: Island

by Joe Gross

Remember in Boogie Nights, when Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild are in the studio, trying to cut "The Touch," and Dirk's singing, "After all is said and done /You've never walked / You've never run / You're a wiii-nnnerrr!"? And remember when Dirk's voice cracks with deep meaning while Reed, sweatband and all, almost runs in place, ecstatically amped for his pal? That scene is pure Andrew W.K.--the aerobic enthusiasm, the karate-in-front-of-the-mirror aggression, the white jeans. Overloaded with melody, noise, and lunkhead joie de vivre, W.K.'s 2001 debut, I Get Wet, was the year's most exhilarating brick to the face because it transformed absurd rock cliches (pop-metal guitar, '80s synthesizers, lyrics about partying) into a triumphant, irony-vaporizing victory lap.

The Wolf is W.K.'s idea of progress, dialing downWet's relentlessness while keeping up the melodramatic barrage of goodwill. It's the sound of Andrew revealing--and reveling in--his debt to cheez-god Jim Steinman, thewriter/producer who successfully connected the dots between Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, and the Sisters of Mercy. Dozens of guitars, keyboards, and pianos stack up, topple over, and roll like battering rams. "Victory Strikes Again" opens the album with what sounds like the sliding-home-safe sound from Wide World of Sports; after two minutes of stadium Valhalla, the song gives way to "Long Live the Party," which blazes like a call to arms (or a stump speech). Sometimes W.K. roars, sometimes he roars a little less. "Really in Love" is his version of a power ballad, which means more power than ballad: "I do what I want / And I want you." Differentiating between tracks is almost beside the point: The Wolf works best as a concept album about never surrendering the night when you got your first real six-string at the five-and-dime and were tryin' to break free. It's about his fans, and the victory in their hearts. As the man says, "You get me / I get you / We get us."

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