Two decades have been and gone since ANDREW W.K. first released "Party Hard". A turbocharged, steroidal mega-banger by anyone's standards, it seemed to herald the arrival of a major new talent. The subsequent album, "I Get Wet" was a flat-out joy: brimming with exhilarating variations on the same theme. But still, "Party Hard" was the one, and despite having released plenty of strong records over the years since activating that subcultural glitter-bomb, Andrew W.K. remains tethered securely to one song, released 20 years ago, at least in the ears and eyes of the alternative rock-consuming public. It's hard to imagine the relentlessly buoyant Michigan maverick having an issue with that, of course, but there is something about "God Is Partying" that suggests that he is hitting a long-awaited second winning streak here.
For a start, this is nothing like "I Get Wet", and there are no songs that resemble "Party Hard" in any meaningful way. This will come as no surprise to diehard fans, who have been enjoying Andrew's eclectic approach to raising spirits all along. But for everyone else, this album needs to be heard because it's so authentically surprising, and full of big, dramatic songs that offer a great deal more depth and musical intrigue than our somewhat narrow view of Andrew's oeuvre anticipates. Always a slave to bombast, he has truly embraced his more adventurous influences here, from QUEEN's towering, multi-tonal hard rock to Devin Townsend's chrome-plated, tune-heavy heaviness. Using those bigger, more colorful ideas to illustrate what seem to be heartfelt and determinedly non-goofy thoughts on love, life and, perhaps inevitably, partying and its power.
Opener "Everybody Sins" erupts with the theatrical panache of mid-'70s ALICE COOPER, but wields sonic weight with an unmistakable, '90s alt-rock crunch, and with vocal melodies that belong on the airwaves of some crusty AOR station in the middle of nowhere. Again, it is so far away from that song, and so good, that more cynical observers may start to feel slightly guilty for dismissing the man as a daft one-hit wonder. He repeats the trick on the prog-tinged "No One To Know", a grand, gothic ballad with a curiously intimate vocal performance from W.K. Even more indebted to the arena-bothering hugeness of the classic rock greats, "My Tower" boasts a furious, spiraling solo worthy of peak PINK FLOYD and a brilliantly jarring detour into pulsing Krautrock. Even the shorter, sassier likes of "Babalon" and "I'm In Heaven" strike a sublime balance between mad ideas and classy songwriting. Meanwhile, ANDREW W.K. is not constantly telling us to party, which also comes as something of a relief. In fact, the overall vibe of "God Is Partying" is one of hopeful resignation and, unexpectedly, world-weary grit. The party is not over, by any means, but one of its chief exponents has discovered its hidden depths. Ironically, the end result is the most straightforwardly entertaining thing he's ever released.