You’re Not Alone is the first Andrew W.K. album in nine years, but your last musical memory of him is probably the bloody nose of I Get Wet, his iconic 2001 debut.
So what has changed in 17 years? The dirty white t-shirt and jeans are the same; so is the bombast; the guitars still sound hard and glossy; the drums are still hammered and the choruses are still bellowed. But I Get Wet made partying and destruction somehow function as self-help and You’re Not Alone just offers actual self-help.
On mid-tempo single “Ever Again,” Andrew W.K. sings ‘They say that nobody changes/But I'm living proof that they do/Because I found the answer/And you can find the answer, too.’ Then we get a blast of “whoa-oh-oh-oh” and even the absolute zealous commitment of the performance can’t make something so abstracted and familiar feel exhilarating in the way the song clearly wants to be. The album’s nadir comes on minute-long sermons “Confusion and Clarity” and “In Your Darkest Moments” in which Andrew W.K. offers straight forward motivational speaking.
Sonically You're Not Alone is less “Party Hard” than “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and I’m not saying that “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” isn’t great, but the berserk, nihilistic energy that made Andrew W.K.’s name is gone. In its place is something more affirming but more ponderous. Song after song goes for big, anthemic goosebump moments, but the melodies aren’t memorable enough and the sentiment, even as sincerely as it is delivered, feels forced. Only on "Music is Worth Living For" does Andrew W.K. manage to capture the ecstatic transcendence laid out explicitly in the lyrics through his crazed falsetto and the build of arpeggiating guitar.
I first saw Andrew W.K. in 2001 on MTV screaming, soaking wet, with a deep cut down his forehead. I thought it was the worst thing I had ever heard for about 15 seconds before I fell in love. I went to the first one of his shows I could and got thrown around a sweaty mosh pit until I climbed on stage and got thrown back into the crowd. It’s impossible for me to hear his voice without thinking about that night. On You’re Not Alone Andrew W.K. wrote a book to tell me how to get back there. I wanted him to transport me.