Andrew W.K.'s 'God Is Partying' Features Very Little Partying (but Some God)

Andrew W.K.'s 'God Is Partying' Features Very Little Partying (but Some God)
8
After receiving somewhat mixed reviews for 2018's You're Not Alone (an enjoyable but patchy comeback album that arrived after more than a decade spent wandering the commercial fringes), party guru and goodwill magnet Andrew W.K. has returned relatively quickly with his superior follow-up, the ambitious God Is Partying. It finds the 42-year-old easing into middle age with a decidedly serious interpretation of partying, and, as its title suggests, a more cosmic register to explore it in this time as well, a world where the Dionysian self-expression of partying battles against an oppressive and proscriptive Law from on high.

It can honestly be a lot sometimes, and those expecting to party hard in the old way will likely be disappointed by Andrew W.K.'s continued reliance on slow, plodding tempos. Those willing to follow this more difficult and thorny path of partying, however, will find it to be an ultimately rewarding album, full of the artist's usual earnestness and conviction.

The choice to play every instrument on God Is Partying himself is perhaps a reason for these mid-paced proceedings. While always an impressive feat, playing everything carries the risk of exposing one's limitations as well, and while Andrew W.K. is certainly a fine drummer, his comfort zone seems well-defined. There's plenty of tight, lockstep riffing and beat-perfect fills here (the intro to "Everybody Sins" is a great classic metal tour de force, for instance), but the rhythms are often more painstaking and deliberate than fun or energetic — elements Andrew W.K. was once known for. It lends a certain scope to God Is Partying, for better or worse, and in any event seems to solidify the stylistic break between his early and middle career begun on You're Not Alone.

He commands this mode confidently, however, dividing his time mostly between slow-burning builds and pounding, slow-motion headbanging — as well as using the opportunity to indulge his classic metal roots further than ever before. Epic intros (already firmly in the Andrew W.K. wheelhouse), organ-filled interludes, lyrics about gods and battles — they're all here. It's definitely the heaviest Andrew W.K. album ever. The relative lack of classically trained piano (such a huge part of his early sound, seemingly swapped out now for bland organ tones) is a bit of a disappointment, and when the big, complex chords finally do roll in on the almost Elton John-esque "Remember Your Oath" (a soaring late-album highlight that just might be about Jesus), it's frankly a bit of a relief after all the heavy going that's preceded it. 

It is, in the end, a bit of a gloomy, brooding album. There is no galloping joy here, no euphoria, and frankly, very little partying — although album closer "And Then We Blew Apart" is a possible exception. This finale, with its ringing piano chords and big, 70s guitar lead is as classic Andrew W.K. as it gets, and there will be some who wish there were more of it. It's a great moment, but there are plenty of others on God Is Partying that are just as good in a different way. This is an assured return. (Napalm)