Saturday, 14 November 2009

Andrew W. K. - 55 Cadillac

Anyone who has followed Andrew W.K. at all in the last three or so years is aware that he is a man of many talents. Having dabbled quite extensively with motivational speaking, Andrew went on to start production work on well established musicians such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry before recently returning to his own music, initially releasing a covers album of J-Pop songs (don’t ask). W.K.’s most recent releases consist of an album dedicated to English versions of the themes of popular manga / anime series Gundam, and the long-promised solo piano album, 55 Cadillac.

55 Cadillac is a strange album to listen to if the majority of your Andrew W.K. experience is his anthemic good-time party rock. Although often touted between fans, it isn’t common knowledge that Andrew himself is a classically trained pianist and as such, is rather well versed at tinkling the ivories. 55 Cadillac is a collection of primarily improvised piano pieces of varying styles and quality. The album starts on a bit of a flat note with opener ‘Begin The Engine’ – a song completely bogged down in endless note trilling – but quickly picks up soon after. Track ‘Night Driver’ exudes a joyous sense of melody and is one of the few tracks on the album that is evocative of earlier Andrew W.K. material, with its bouncing chord progression. However, a common problem with the album is that of repetition. Frequently, a song will collapse into a mess of weird note patterns and trills that seem to cease any flow of the piece. Whilst usually the tracks do tend to pick up and begin forming a sense of melody again, these weird indulgent bits seem fairly ill-fitted - at several points it seems like Andrew is basically having a nervous breakdown via the medium of a piano. Thankfully, these moments don’t make up the majority of the album, which is sprinkled with a great sense of variety ranging from the almost Ludovico Einaudi stylings of ‘Seeing The Car’ to the upbeat and jazzy flair of ‘Central Park Cruiser’. ‘5’ is one of the more together pieces on the album, maintaining a solid progression throughout, whereas closer ‘Cadillac’ is definitely the most Andrew W.K. styled song on the album. Being the sole track to make a break from 55 Cadillac’s piano-only formula, ‘Cadillac’ allows some drum tracks and suitably epic guitar melodies to interrupt, eventually climaxing with the record’s only lyric - the ridiculously multi-layered declaration of “Cadillaaaaaaaac!”, guaranteed to bring a smile on the listener’s face.

Whilst perhaps not the best collection of piano pieces ever to committed to CD, there is a certain charm to 55 Cadillac. The actual theme of the album – that Andrew is inside of a ‘55 Cadillac and serenading you on a piano – is endearing. Whilst the songs are not always as brilliantly constructed as they could be, there are moments where Andrew’s penchant for writing catchy instrumentation and his great piano abilities really shine through. You can say a lot of things about Andrew W.K., but one thing that can never be doubted is his genuine commitment to everything he puts his name to. Whilst 55 Cadillac isn’t without its flaws, it is a great foray in to previously uncharted territory for W.K., who clearly is looking to broaden his musical horizons in each and every way possible.

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