I couldn't quite see the fuss when Andrew WK released I Get Wet - back in 2001/2002. I mean, it was kinda fun, almost certainly funny, I never (quite) hated it. I just didn't see it as any new thing, as any great idea. Sure, he seemed to arrive from nowhere and the music packed a (superficial) punch. But I'd done my time with hair metal and Meat Loaf and various party anthems. I didn't need this circus act.
As the years went on I became far more interested in what Andrew WK would go on to do - particularly an all-instrumental collection called 55 Cadillac (piano-based improvisations) that is more Keith Jarrett than Quiet Riot.
But the most recent addition to the 33 1/3 series, wee books for anoraks, dealing - usually - in classic albums, in the stories around the making and/or reception of a "classic" album, is about Andrew WK's album I Get Wet.
I've just reviewed the book (click that link above). It's a wonderful piece of writing from author Phillip Crandall. And a reminder that, so often, the best music writing will send you back to the source. You'll return to the music with fresh ears and fresh ideas, things to look for, a new way in. You'll have a new perspective, or might be hoping to gain one from a further listen; a future listen...
I've bought and read books about music since I was 13. The first book that I became obsessed with was a Mick Jagger biography. I also read a book about the murder of John Lennon. In and around these books I was still finishing off the Willard Price adventure series, still reading Footrot Flats and other comic strips. I'd just started reading Stephen King. But those two books about rock icons had me hooked. I started buying anything and everything about music from the bargain bins. I took out library books, I checked the shelves at home, found books about The Beatles and Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones. I devoured them. In some cases I read and re-read them, same with liner notes (remember those?). I'd have my parents' LPs sprawled around me, searching for anything beyond the tracklisting.
It was always great to find out a bit more about the music you loved. But it was often more rewarding to read a fresh opinion about music you hadn't heard or had decided wasn't for you. This was where you could really gain insight, find that new way in, decide if it was worth it. Take someone else's experience with you to the record for that second attempt.
I've never been interested in reading opinions simply to find something to agree with; to find someone who agrees with what I already think. I don't need that validation. What I need is something interesting, something that shows great passion.
The 33 1/3 series is a lot of fun. I've read every book so far; by my count they're just about to release the 90th in the series. I'll start reading that soon. And I'm really looking forward to that one - it's about Aphex Twin.
Some of the books haven't quite worked for me. I found the ones about Nirvana and Radiohead really disappointing. Maybe that's because I know the material so well already?
Because the series usually deals with classic albums - more often than not - I find I already know a lot of the "information". So I'm always looking for the fresh new story, or the new way that the old tale is told.
But Phillip Crandall's book about Andrew WK's I Get Wet has been one of my favourites from this wonderful series of books. Fans will love it, sure. But if you're like me, if you didn't quite get the fuss first time around, you'll not only find a funny, sad, fascinating story, you'll find great heart-on-(record)-sleeve writing. You'll find so much in the story behind the album - a whole lot of time and effort went into making an album that sounded like it had been tossed off as some middle-finger gesture, made to sound like an album that had required very little time or effort.
And you might find a new way in if you never cared about the album before. I'm digging I Get Wet a lot more than I did ten/twelve years ago. But I'm also in love with 55 Cadillac. And I'm aware, now, that there's so much more to Andrew WK than that bloody-faced image of him we know so well from his debut album's cover.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts
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