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Pazz & Jop Comments: My My, Hey Hey, Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay

Auckland’s Beths might be the 4,000th indie rock band from ever-fecund New Zealand — let alone the entire globe. But others don’t have Elizabeth Stokes. Not to slight her bandmates on Future Me Hates Me; they’re bubbly-effervescent and post-punky-barbed excited-sounding, too. But to confront “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” “Not Running,” or the title track is to be like a trained guard dog that rolls over and seeks belly rubs instead of barking. Stokes is ridiculously infectious and disarming, making this least-ephemeral kind of guitar pop ear candy. Future us will still love her.— Jack Rabid

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It seems reports of rock and roll’s death have been greatly exaggerated. On Young & Dangerous, the Struts’ Butch Walker–produced sophomore banger, Luke Spiller (the band’s spectacularly Zandra Rhodes–caped frontman, who could have easily played the lead in Bohemian Rhapsody if Rami Malek hadn’t been available) and his fellow British glam-rockers vamp and amp their way through the disco-rock euphoria of “Who Am I?” (think the Stones’ “Miss You” or Rod the Mod’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”), the Crowes-y cowbell jam “Primadonna Like Me,” the hard-charging football terrace chant “Bulletproof Baby,” and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show themes “Body Talks” and “In Love With a Camera” with unbridled Jagger swagger. Dave Grohl, authority on all things rawk, declared the Struts the best opening act to ever tour with the Foo Fighters, but expect them to be headlining stadiums on their own in 2019.
— Lyndsey Parker

https://youtu.be/dNxCz-Iyu0g

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”: OK, the two best films of the year were First Reformed and Shoplifters, but the most thrilling moment on the screen was unquestionably when Gaga summons her inner rock goddess with “huuuh, uhhh, ahhhh ah wah haaa ahhhhhhhhh.” I mean, the film could have fallen off the cliff from there and I would have been happy.
— Ken Capobianco

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Paul McCartney, Egypt StationHis best since Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and a nice bit of political commentary on “Despite Repeated Warnings.”
— Gillian Gaar

Mighty Mighty BosstonesFollowing a seven-year recording absence, the veteran Boston ska-rock group came back strong with the socially conscious While We’re At It, where the still-gravelly-voiced Dicky Barrett penned lyrics with vivid imagery.
— George A. Paul

Andrew W.K., “Music Is Worth Living For” 
It is.
— 
Ian Mathers

Apparently Love Is Dead is Chvrches “selling out,” even though they were already a pretty poppy band to begin with. This is music designed to boom in the big venues Chvrches have rightly earned, and it, as they say, slaps.
— Brice Ezell

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Though Will Toledo technically debuted Car Seat Headrest’s “Bodys” sometime in the late 2000s on Bandcamp, it got its chance to shine this year on the reworked Twin Fantasy. Tumbling synths, pristine drum machine loops, and an impending sense of complicated youthful bliss make this song one of my favorites of 2018. Toledo connects the fragility of young love to the delicacy of the human body, the vessels that allow us to experience life fully.
— Ellen Johnson

Amen Dunes, “Miki Dora”: I don’t listen to music to learn stuff — not stuff that can be put into words, anyway. But reading up on this song’s eponymous subject was fascinating: a guy from the Fifties who helped popularize surfing (he’s in every one of those Frankie Avalon–Annette Funicello movies) but who supposedly hated the commercialization of what he’d helped usher in, and who conveyed his disgust by acting out in various ways — swastikas, crucifixion imagery, crime, exile. I’m old enough to remember when there’d be an occasional surfing segment on Wide World of Sports; also, Laura Blears Ching in Playboy…I digress. I came across this one interesting quote from the president of the Hang-Ten Chapter of Malibu Surfers just after Dora’s swastika incident: “You had a surfer on one side that was bad, and you had a group of surfers on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.” I like the sound of “Miki Dora” fine — it starts off like a dreamy, singer-songwriter version of “Come as You Are” — but it’s primarily the story that draws me in.
— Phil Dellio

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Making her own mythologies, reassembling our monuments. Neko Case is forever.
Ann Powers

Greta Van Fleet emerged from the wide-scale savaging of social media haters loud and proud.
— Bud Scoppa

Is Parquet Courts’ “Total Football” about Colin Kaepernick? I refuse to look it up and spoil the meaning of this song for myself. Anyone who says football isn’t political is an idiot. It’s very political because it’s very capitalistic, and Parquet Courts actually understand that.… Wide Awaaaaaake! is a very relevant political evolution for PQ, with signature catchy tunes about everything from feeding cats to global warming to why Tom Brady sucks.
— Troy Farah

Parquet Courts, Wide Awaaaaaake! Even Patriots fans dig the “fuck Tom Brady” coda of “Total Football.”
— Michael Fournier

On Wide Awaaaaaake!, Parquet Courts, the last (?) of the great downtown New York art-guitar bands, get woke, attacking everything from violence and global warming deniers to Patriot QB Tom Brady in the most remarkable cultural shift since the Beasties’.
— Roy Trakin

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Andrew W.K. Brings His Party to Irving Plaza

Four years ago, when he was serving as the Village Voice’s advice columnist, Andrew W.K. received a message from a reader trying to come to terms with the politics of his right-wing father. It’s hard to remember now, but America in 2014 was a very different place, and Andrew’s words seem to anticipate the current political divide. “The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world,” he wrote. “Love your dad because he’s your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you’re so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind — the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don’t feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.”

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On Friday night, Andrew W.K. brings his message of love, hope, and partying to Irving Plaza, where he first performed almost two decades ago. In the years since he stormed into music fans’ lives like a sweaty, white denim–clad hurricane, the singer has been rock music’s prophet of positivity. In March, he released You’re Not Alone, his first album since 2009. We caught up with the singer to talk politics, music, and the power of positive thinking.

Since Trump came into office, your advice to “Son of A Right-Winger” has continued to resonate with Voice readers. It was almost like you predicted the current state of our politics.

I haven’t read that in a long time, but it was written from a place of common knowledge, things that other people had explained to me, sharing this perspective. It was a plea for my own sanity and my own civility, and a belief in the world’s ability to be humane and restrained while also being convicted and passionate. They’re cycles, it seems, in the human experience that really have the ability to bring out our worst and bring out our best. And, more intensely, bring out our worst disguised as our best. And I’ve been as challenged by this as anyone else.

You’ve also been a motivational speaker, and so much of your music is about seizing the moment and embracing life. How did you settle on rock music as the delivery mechanism for your message?

Being the keyboard player first and foremost — and having my earliest musical education come through the piano — I was very late to the game when it came to rock music in general. It wasn’t until high school, really, that I got into that. And before rock music I had gotten into more, I guess I would say radical music, because that was the most strong departure from the traditional piano lessons I had. So that would be defined as experimental or avant-garde or modern or contemporary. That was, to me, the most exciting thing. And then I looked at the mentality of contemporary rock music as having the potential to combine anything and everything.

How so?

It was the most unrestrained and intense delivery method for the feeling I was trying to conjure up. It’s a very visceral and physical way to access a kind of primal energy and nothing else really works quite like it. All music, I think, is trying to reach a kind of core truth about being alive, a truth that can be physically experienced through our senses beyond our mental consideration into the physical, and so that’s what makes it so undeniable. But for me, almost as though I was born to do it, rock music had a maximalist sensibility that I really clicked with, just that everything was taken further. I feel like others that came before, if I may be so bold, have all been trying to get to that place together. And of course I’m extraordinarily inspired and encouraged by other people, especially those that have been doing it for a long time who are still engaged and still passionate and still determined to make that feeling happen for themselves and for their fellow humans.

So you didn’t blast Queen or Kiss records to get pumped up to make the new record?

You know, I would answer this in two ways in the most respectful way possible. One, I really do try to strip my mind of everything when making a recording, and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant or as insincere. Most people who record music are trying — maybe they’re not, but I know there’s other people out there because I’ve talked to them — where they’re trying to say, “OK, what can I do? What can I do? Here’s what’s been done. Here’s my chance. I haven’t existed yet. I’ve never sat down to record a song so what can I do?” And it’s not to say I understand the idea that no one is free of influence and there’s a great chain of inspiration, whether it’s acknowledged or not, but there does seem to be something sacred and respectful about going out into the musical landscape and seeing if you can plant your own seed. That’s the greatest show of respect I can show to the music that I admire: to not try to copy it. I can never be that person no matter how hard I try. Who can I be? Can I get to the place they’re getting to? And I also will say even if there were influences, I would never say them, because I think it’s distracting. People can guess themselves.

 

How challenging is it to find other musicians who have the same drive and mission as you?

Well, I would like to say with all due acknowledgment to every band member I’ve ever had, because every band member has gotten us to where we are now, but this is the best the band has ever been. And I really say that because of the practice we’ve put in at this point. You hope that doing something longer enables you to improve doing it, and this band is the best that we’ve ever been and that’s just from time. Every other band member I’ve had has been incredible and irreplaceable and unique, but as things have come and gone, and people have come and gone and come back again, we are just at a level of focus and excitement and determination. I wish I could find another word for it, but there’s a lot of plain old-fashioned gratitude that we’ve gotten to do any of this in the first place, and that we’re still getting to do it. So I’d like to think that people would be able to feel our excitement for our playing this and playing for them.

How long, exactly, have you guys been playing together?

Well, the bass player, Gregg Roberts, and one of the guitar players, Erik Payne — they’ve been in the band since the beginning, since our first show we ever played, in 2001. They probably joined the band in 2000. Then there’s new members that have only been in the band for about a year.

Isn’t it a struggle to put out that much energy onstage, especially after all this time?

In some ways it feels completely surprising and baffling and quite confusing and thrilling, and then in other ways it feels completely unavoidable, like it was preordained and all that kind of feeling. I can’t imagine it being any other way. But then I can let my mind wander into all the other possibilities. It’s one of those kinds of projects where there’s many ways to look at it, and they’re all quite intense, for me at least. I can easily see it as, “How did I wind up so lucky as to be doing this?” and then I can also, at other times, see it as, “Wow, this is why all those people warned me not to do this!” So it’s continuously rewarding and challenging.

Does always looking on the bright side ever get tiring?

Well, as someone who’s a negative person by default, this party quest is about having a reason, a purpose to focus on the positive, to be more positive, to be a more strong and capable person, because that’s not how I felt already. So I had to have some kind of mission that was about those feelings, that gave me a way to experience those emotions that I could apply myself to. So not only is it not a burden to try to stay in that mind-set of motivated optimism, it’s crucial. And this is what gives me the chance to do it. So this work is what’s saving my life, basically. It’s very encouraging for one another to realize that this is a journey we can go on with comrades, with brothers and sisters, and it’s a great chain of humanity that is encouraging us and cheering us on from beyond the grave, or from heaven, or however you want to look at it. I just feel like my message is, “How can we find the meaning to life?” And that’s nothing that I possess. I’m just one of the people trying to get there myself, and do it in a profound way that hopefully resonates with more than just myself.

Andrew W.K. plays Irving Plaza on Friday, May 18.

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PIANO MAN

Step aside, LMFAO: The original party rocker, co-owner of Santos Party House, and the Voice’s very own advice columnist Andrew W.K. is bringing his Grand Piano Party back to Bleecker Street’s Subculture. This event, which features the musician banging the ol’ 88 with his feet à la Lady Gaga, is a departure from his usual party-hard rock ’n’ roll antics but also a return to his roots: W.K. started playing classical piano at age four, and it’s a skill he’s taken as far as playing his anthem “Get Wet” on Liberace’s piano in Beverly Hills — but not even such a posh venue could get in the way of a head-banging grunt-along.

Sat., April 26, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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Road Stories: Andrew W.K.+Masta Killa

Village Voice columnist Andrew W.K. and Wu Tang Clan’s Masta Killa share their sordid tales of touring the world with comedian Tom Cowell and our own music editor Brian McManus. And it’s free!

Fri., March 14, 10 p.m., 2014

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Ask Andrew W. K: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 

[New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your problems and sets you safely down the path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party.]

 

Dear Andrew W.K.,

Thank you for spreading your message of positive partying. I am ready for a move in my career and know that I will not be able to go any higher at my current company. If I were to follow my passion, it would mean leaving my current city, but I am in love with where I am living and with my friends and family here. I’m worried that if I do follow my passion for my career, I might end up very unhappy being so far away from the life I’ve built, but I also know that if I stay, a big part of me will never be satisfied. I feel like my heart is equally invested in both sides of this dilemma. In your infinite party wisdom, what would you suggest I do? Follow my dreams and leave town, or stay close to my friends in a job that is not good for me?

The Virginity Taker

 

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Andrew W.K.

An Andrew W.K. show is less concert than purification ritual. The band is hairy and huge in sound, its frontman a case of Red Bull distilled into sneakers, denim, and a tight white T-shirt. Tunes like “Party Hard,” “Long Live the Party,” and “Party Til You Puke” are moronically marvelous. (He also sings about girls, cars, and getting high, but with somewhat less gusto.) And for New Year’s Eve? Imagine a party going to a party.

Tue., Dec. 31, 8 p.m., 2013

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Wolf Eyes

A rare beast indeed, Wolf Eyes manage to play the weirdest avant-garde “out” free-music as well as the occasional aggressive quasi-metal banger and still get props from noise-loving hipsters. They’ve released so many records that even Andrew W.K. appeared on one or two of them, and yet they still find ways to sound fresh, such as the shimmering drones of “Chattering Lead,” off their latest album, No Answer: Lower Floors. Because of their versatility, they’re headlining the Issue Project Room’s showcase of lo-fi head trips, which also features post-punks the Men, echo-clad singer-songwriter Amen Dunes, and family-unfriendly scuzz rockers PC Worship.

Sat., Aug. 24, 2 p.m., 2013

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‘4Knots Afterparty’ w/ Lil B

One might think of Lil B as an ocean of free-associative emo rap: Andrew W.K.–aspirational, endlessly voluble, characteristically manic. The Berkley MC, performing tonight at the Voice’s 4Knots afterparty, peels off mixtapes like most heads change underwear—most missives tiny, lapping waves in a veritable sea of them. Tidal swells are besides the point in a cult of personality-based paradigm where positivity trumps technique, and where you fall in the gulf between willful, constant immersion, and “just dipping in an occasional toe” into his no-holds barred id flow may say something about your psychological state.

Sat., June 29, 8 p.m., 2013

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Andrew W.K.

Best known for a single “Party Hard” that also summarizes his creative ethos, Andrew W.K. is a hard rocker who got his start in the cradle of Michigan’s punk scene. Once claiming he wanted his music to sound like freedom, W.K. writes anthemic rock songs with pounding piano, brash guitar, and repeated mantras about drinking and partying. Appropriately, his songs have ended up on everything from frat party playlists to beer commercials and Jackass. Now with six studio albums and a handful of EPs out, he’s got quite the repertoire of simplistic but wildly catchy rock songs.

Wed., March 6, 8 p.m., 2013

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DRAUGHT CHOICE

Will Beyoncé be lip-synching during the Super Bowl halftime show? Some say yes; some say no. But one person who definitely won’t be faking it today is Andrew W.K., who’s hosting a Super Bowl Party at his Santos Party House and providing all the halftime entertainment himself. 
Score pizza from Roberta’s, a free drink with your $10 admission, and sets from MC Todd and Aleister X. Sounds like a win-win to us.

Sun., Feb. 3, 5:30 p.m., 2013