It’s fair to say that Andrew W.K. is more meme than man at this point. His nearly 20-year career has less been defined his output and more by a single facet of his character: a love of partying. With a back catalog which includes classics such as ‘Party Hard’, ‘Party Till You Puke’ and ‘We Want Fun’, his devotion is undeniable. Every song, quote or appearance relates in some way to partying and that’s nice. It’s comforting to know that the human embodiment of Slurms MacKenzie is out there. Our ADHD addled Batman partying for our right to party night after night. The thing is though, memes are, by their nature, fairly shallow ideas. By extension, W.K. and his adoration of celebration are fun, but they don’t inspire much in the way of anything more than some flailing motions. So when You’re Not Alone, his first LP in almost a decade, was announced you could be forgiven for not really giving a shit.
But like a club rat transformer, there’s more than meets the eye. Here’s a guy who has spent the better part of his career as a motivational speaker, and a good one at that, as well as having candidly spoken previously about bouts of severe depression and anxiety. With You’re Not Alone, there is a promise of an album chock full of self-actualisation and party anthems and by god does it deliver. It’s a strange time to be alive when you can say that Andrew W.K. has given us not only one of the most thematically cohesive records of the year so far but also easily one of the most charming.
Full disclosure here, this isn’t a masterpiece by anyone’s definition. The production is stiff and a little lifeless, musically it struggles to give tracks their own identity and large swathes of it sound a lot like Kiss’s ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’. On the other hand, it’s genuinely life-affirming, loaded with some great riffs and large swathes of it sound a lot like Kiss’s ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’. That last point is quite significant because, like Chaim Witz’s seminal piece, this LP elegantly walks the tightrope between deliciously cheesy and overwhelmingly sincere. On all fronts, this should be trite and disposable, yet it simply isn’t. Take the lead single ‘Ever Again’. It’s a piece about finding courage in the face of adversity, growing as a person and using that strength to keep powering on. This should be a hackneyed, clichéd platitudinous mess and it’s just not. It’s genuinely fun and charming on a deeply satisfying level. W.K. is so spirited in his performance that he makes the message actually believable and achievable.
Every single cut here touches on the different side of the same struggle. It’s about realising a sense of fulfilment and becoming the version of yourself that you want to be. He uses a few obvious examples to soundtrack his message. There are shades of Queen, Meatloaf, The Ramones and The Darkness all over this. But that’s mostly window dressing to the message, which is clockwork consistent. The reason the album works as well as it does is that it commits to its ideas and takes a risk. There’s a trio of interludes dotted around the album. They interrupt the riffage, moshing and the heavy mellowness to deliver a simple heartfelt broadcast, which neatly summarises his central thesis. They should be obnoxious and saccharine, but points are intelligent and well formed and somehow tie back into partying in a natural way. Take ‘In Your Darkest Moments’, the second of the three, which deals with the importance of challenges and how a deeper meaning can be derived from them. It’s sweet, simple and straightforward, but at the last minute, he adds this lovely little lilt:
“Darkness and shadow, those are not our enemies. They’re as necessary and natural as the nighttime is to the day. The dark isn’t bad, it’s simply the light casting a shadow. Our ultimate quest is not to destroy the shadows, or our demons, but to learn to hold hands with that side of life, to party with our demons.”
It’s really difficult not to be won over. You’ve got well considered and beautifully articulated messages of hope, love and understanding melded with an earnest and earned optimism. All of the this with a cheesy rock ballad soundtrack and you actually can’t ask for much more.