When Winter Knocks Me Down, Andrew W.K.’s ‘The Wolf’ Helps Me Back Up
Posted on November 18, 2014
November 18, 2014
by Bryne Yancey
Winter has arrived early in Philadelphia. With the frigid temperatures come painfully short days, extra layers, chapped lips, cracked skin, and for many, an oppressive feeling of seemingly endless dread. Seasonal Affective Disorder—was its acronym supposed to be a kind of gallows humor?—is a very real thing, and though it can affect some in the spring and summer months as well, winter appears to be when it really digs in its heels. People with SAD, diagnosed or not, can experience heightened irritability, oversleeping, a lack of energy and other debilitating symptoms. And all because of a thing that we know we can’t control: the weather. Our brains are weird. It’s unnervingly easy to fall into a rut this time of year; everything just moves more slowly, if at all, and usually in the dark.
Creative ruts happen, too, but unlike those in the warmer months, they often seem insurmountable this time of year. The power of positive thinking, the power of “just fucking write” doesn’t hold much water, because the water has frozen over and you’ve slipped on it and ripped a hole in the ass of your favorite jeans. One entity, though, instills enough positive power in me to overcome just about any obstacle: I’m talking, of course, about Andrew W.K.’s 2003 full-length The Wolf.
Amidst the well-earned supernova of goodwill and nostalgia of I Get Wet, The Wolf is kind of a forgotten album. It’s a slower, perhaps more contemplative piece of work from an artist fans came to quickly identify as immediately, urgently exuberant, one who partied hard when it was time, often until he puked, who was ready to die, take it off, have a fun night and never, ever stop living in the red. The Wolf, other than the token “Long Live The Party,” isn’t so much about partying as a temporary excursion into bliss; rather, it seems to be more concerned about “partying” as an idea, as a proxy for the unassailable power of positive thinking. The album oozes optimism in a completely unironic and entirely unflappable way. It’s that pink slime from Ghostbusters II in musical form. It’s exactly what I reach for whenever I’m feeling blue.
Andrew played every instrument on The Wolf, and it shows; the album sounds more like a studio project than the work of a band—maybe that’s one reason it didn’t resonate as much with fans. Most of the songs use slower tempos and lots of piano, and many of them hover around the four-minute mark, their appeal perhaps not immediately apparent when compared to the near-animalistic undercurrent of I Get Wet. It’s a grower, in a few fancy words.
But once it clicks, the opening crash of “Victory Strikes Again” is a near-perfect mood enhancer. Though the lyrics of “Tear It Up” are intensely introspective, the overarching message is universal—it’s up to you to decide what to tear up (your homework, perhaps). “Never Let Down” has the cadence, dramatic piano and soaring guitars fit for a storybook ending to an ‘80s teen movie; 33 seconds into “Never Let Down,” I feel like I’ve just hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer and gotten the girl. “Totally Stupid,” which for the record is not totally stupid, contains perhaps the best lyrical advice in Andrew’s entire discography: “Life’s too short, so do what you want.”
It’s a pretty noble thing for a rock musician, to want to be everyone’s friend and encourage them to try their best and believe in themselves. The Wolf pretty much always makes me feel a little better. I hope you have an album that does the same for you.