Andrew W.K. // I Get Wet

It’s time to party. Let’s party.

Andrewwet

Andrew W.K.’s 2001 album I Get Wet is, hands-down, the most energizing record I’ve ever heard. Every song is the equivalent of the brain rush that follows chugging an energy drink. Listening to the entire record is, to me, like throwing a party by myself, for myself. I’m left with the feeling that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to.


I Get Wet full album stream

I listen to I Get Wet every time I have to participate in an important talk or meeting, or participate in an interview. I put on my headphones, play the album, and listen to as much of it, as loud as I can, until I get where I’m going. I get nervous when the stakes are high, but I’ve found the intense positive vibes Andrew W.K. radiates pacifies my nerves and gives me a huge burst of self-confidence. About six months ago, I had a job interview, and played I Get Wet while walking to the meeting room. Listening to even just the first 10 minutes or so made me feel like I was going to kick open the door, smoke billowing as I step in, backlit, two doves flying in on either side of me. I got the job.

Andrew W.K. goofing off on Fox News

I Get Wet is the archetypal party rock record. It’s mostly metal (and leans on some hair metal tropes). For me to sign off on this as being one of my favorite rock albums is saying something. I don’t tend to like party music. But this record is so life affirming, I could listen to it every day of the week.

Andrew W.K. the weatherman

Adding to my love of I Get Wet is Andrew W.K. as a person. In one life, he’s a party rocker, but in his other life, he’s a motivational speaker and an advice columnist. His speeches and advice typically revolves around his personal philosophy of positive partying, and although that may sound goofy, he’s so sincere and thoughtful that his thoughts really resonate with me. Just check out his Twitter account, full of his Party Tips (or more accurately, Life Tips), like this one. Read his Village Voice advice column. What he has to say on prayer and death specifically moved me. He’s a genuine and sincere dude and his love of life and people is infectious.

Andrew WK on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This is what I imagine it’s like in his mind 24/7.

I will admit, I have not dug any further into Andrew W.K.’s discography. I feel like I don’t need to. I Get Wet feels like a complete statement: PARTY HARD! I don’t feel like I need more added to that. It’s not often that I feel this way about an artist. Normally when I love a release by an artist, I’ll dig into the rest of his or her catalog. I just don’t feel that I need to in this case.

In summary: PLAY IT LOUD! AND PARTY HARD!!!

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Saga

 cover image

               Well there was really only one choice for this week as far as I’m concerned, Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Since its start in March of 2012 it has one a total of six Eisner Awards, six Harvey awards, and even a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.  That’s pretty good, especially when that includes three Best Writer, three Best Continuing Series, two Best New Series, a Best Artist, and a Best Painter/Multimedia Artist award. The critics love this book, and so do the fans.

I got on the horse a little late this one. I didn’t start until issue nineteen, which was the start of a new story line, when I got into the series around issue twenty-one. With time I’ll go back a collect the rest, while I have an idea of what happened I want to experience it. I talked about something similar when I wrote about Runaways, which isn’t unexpected since they’re written by the same individual. No matter what he writes, his characters are so well realized that it’s interesting to just see them interact. Put them in a room and great stuff happens.

Not acceptable for all ages.

Not acceptable for all ages.

The story focuses on a galactic star crossed lovers plot. Landfall and its moon Wreath are caught in a war, during the course of which two soldiers, Alana and Marko, fall in love and have a kid. They team up with Marko’s mother Klara and a bifurcated ghost babysitter named Izabel. Meanwhile they are pursued by agents of both worlds in an attempt to keep news of the child from spreading. The arch since I started reading has focused on the family’s life in hiding on a small planet. Alana has become an actor for a local station, playing a character with a much different appearance, and Marko is spending his time with their daughter Hazel. While it’s not big on action, it does show Vaughn’s great pacing and character work.

I really want to know what the first two were like.

Fiona Staples art is amazing. Characters, even of the same alien species, look different and are recognizable. More importantly they are all interesting to look at. The art is a nice balance of sci-fi, fantasy, and modern images and ideas that make it very unique visually. She can capture such great emotion in her character’s faces and body language. The story, at least in the arc I’ve read, is narrated by a future version of Hazel, which staples captures with colors that make the book look like a bunch of old photographs. It’s such a great choice giving the story weight but not being overly stylistic. The book is just as well illustrated as it is written.

We call this character growth.

We call this character growth.

Saga is one of the books I look forward to each month. With strong characters, great writing, and beautiful art there is nothing this book doesn’t excel at. I picked this book up due to all the buzz, and expected to think it didn’t live up to the hype. I was wrong, it does. I strongly urge everyone, over the age of 18, to check this book out, and it looks like next month’s issue twenty-four will be another good jumping on point.

The West Wing

I feel a little silly “recommending” The West Wing because I’m pretty sure everyone who isn’t a newborn infant has seen this show. It’s kind of like saying, “Der, I dunno…Law & Order is a good show.” But that’s kind of an unavoidable trap when writing about award winners. I mean, if it won something, you’ve probably at least heard of it. I thought about taking a sassier route and writing about Orphan Black because by all rights it should have earned Tatiana Maslany at least one Emmy by now, but after some internal struggle, I decided, fuck it. I’m going to write about The West Wing.

Look how majestic everyone is.

Look how majestic everyone is.

Created by Aaron Sorkin (I am of the pro-Sorkin camp, so if you’re not, just be quiet and go bask in all the The Newsroom criticism), The West Wing ran from 1999 to 2006 and features real fictional President Josiah Bartlet and his senior staff as they, you know, run the country. The West Wing went on to win nine Emmys in its first season (that’s a record for a freshman show) and then won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama series four times. So it’s pretty good.

Look at those bamfs.

Look at those bamfs.

I think The West Wing’s success was due mostly to the combination of amazing writing and amazing casting. Martin Sheen plays Jed Bartlet, Stockard Channing plays the First Lady, Jon Spencer plays Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Bradley Whitford is Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, Rob Lowe is Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn. Even Kristin Chenoweth shows up eventually, along with Mary Louise Parker, Lily Tomlin, Anna Deavere Smith…I could go on. And I will, because I haven’t gotten to my three favorite characters yet.

The one wear CJ gets a woot canal.

The one wear CJ gets a woot canal.

White House Press Secretary Claudia Jean “CJ” Cregg (Allison Janney), Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff (aka Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff) Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), and Personal Aide to the President Charlie Young (Dule Hill) are my three personal favorites out of the ensemble. All three of them, but Charlie and Donna in particular, act as everyman-type characters in the midst of the political mayhem of the White House. Charlie also tends to act as a straight man to those antics, but the three of them are usually the ones who ask the questions or break down the jargon into layman’s terms. Plus they are just really awesome.

I couldn't find a picture of just the three of them so here is another majestic cast photo.

I couldn’t find a picture of just the three of them so here is another majestic cast photo.

While The West Wing is still a TV show, of course, and not real life, it’s been regarded as a highly realistic portrayal of life in the White House. Consultants include former press secretaries Dee Dee Myers and Marlin Fitzwater, and political pollsters Frank Luntz and Patrick Caddell. Some criticized the show for being too optimistic, too leftist, and too sentimental, but to them I say: screw you. Especially during the late nineties/early aughts, who didn’t want to escape into a world where the White House was run by sentimental, optimistic liberal Democrats? It’s one of the things that makes the show truly great, and I know there has been more than one instance where I wished Jed Bartlet was my president.

Here's another pretty amazing/ridiculous cast photo. Can't get enough.

Here’s another pretty amazing/ridiculous cast photo. Can’t get enough.

If you’re like me and you love to revisit old favorites, I recommend re-watching the first couple of seasons. Aaron Sorkin steps away from it after the fourth season, and his absence doesn’t necessarily ruin the series, but it’s felt. Those first few seasons are magical, though, and I find myself watching them again and again.

The West Wing is available on DVD and Netflix Instant Play.

The Grammys

When it comes to music awards, there’s pretty much only one that anyone thinks of: The Grammys. Even though most people don’t take them seriously, The Grammys certainly take themselves seriously. I could talk at length about how ridiculous the Grammy voters’ decisions are every year (I mean, it’s 2014 and we’re still giving Bruno Mars major awards?) but The Rec Room is all about positivity! So instead, I’m going to talk about a couple of times when the Grammys got it right. I could go cut-by-cut through some great choices that the Grammys made (see as examples: Adorn by Miguel, Kacey Musgraves & Black Radio by The Robert Glasper Experiment) but that’s boring. So instead, I present to you, a brief discussion: The Grammys’ Attempt to “Legitimize” Indie Rock.

Arcade Fire – “Ready To Start” Grammys 2011 .

Each year, it seems that the Grammy voters see it as their duty to “legitimize” an indie rock band and pull them up from relative obscurity into “the big time.” Over the last few years, we’ve seen this trend happen with Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, and, as of 2014, Vampire Weekend. It is worth noting that all of these bands won Grammys at the peak of their commercial success. I wonder whether these bands actually saw in increase in sales or fans based on the Grammy wins.  I’ll admit, there is a nice feeling that comes when you see bands that you’ve championed for years finally have their talents recognized by “the industry.” But it makes me wonder why they weren’t recognized when they released any of their previous work. Arcade Fire’s Funeral was arguably a more groundbreaking and influential album than The Suburbs and Bon Iver’s first album was a stone-cold classic, yet neither got a single nomination when they came out. Nobody holds any pretentions that the Grammys are about anything other than the music industry pointing out which albums and singles sold a lot of copies, but there is this feeling that I can’t shake that says “I want the Grammys to mean more than that.” It’s easy to gripe about the Grammys, but it must be noted that when they get it right, they really get it right.

Holocene by Grammy-winning Bon Iver

If you are unfamiliar with any of the albums mentioned in this post, go listen to them! Now! J

The Man Who Sold the World by Peter Doggett

When a high school friend of mine looked at me like I’d grown two heads and exclaimed, “You’ve never listened to David Bowie?” I didn’t really expect that I was missing much. By the time I’d finished listening to a Best of Bowie compilation cd, I had already converted to a major fan. I started my journey of Bowie discovery with the albums Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (admittedly, still my two favorites) before moving forward through his discography into the 70s, devouring Diamond Dogs, becoming confused, but intrigued with the shift in sound with Young Americans, and finding musical love again with the 80s albums Scary Monsters and Let’s Dance. Bowie is and will always be like something I have never heard. I was used to musicians gradually shifting sounds over time, but never had I experienced an artist who tackled so many different musical styles. Seeing music videos, live performances, and movies featuring Bowie only increased my Bowie-mania. I was so intrigued with his nearly always dramatic, but ever shifting persona. It came to the point where I don’t think a single one of my friends didn’t know that I loved David Bowie, which led to a lot of good-natured teasing, and plenty of funny gifs and videos sent my way. Finally a good friend of mine bought me Peter Doggett’s biography, The Man Who Sold the World for one of the best birthday gifts I have received.

Perhaps the most interesting, at least to me, portion of The Man Who Sold the World is part one, “The Making of David Bowie: 1947-1968.” Though I was aware of a few tidbits of Bowie’s early life, such as the fact that Bowie’s birth name was David Jones, much of his life pre-1969 (the release year of the hit song Space Odyssey) was a mystery to me. Indeed, the wikipedia article on David Bowie, while certainly more in depth than many other entries, glosses over much of his beginnings, and frankly, isn’t written in a very engaging style. What makes Doggett’s book so intriguing is not only the depth of information, from young Bowie’s parental background and home life, to his pre-music industry careers, but his talented phrasing and ability to explain Bowie’s motivations, experimentation, and failings in the context of his time period, and the many avenues from which Bowie found his inspiration.

Even with the amount of experimentation Bowie would go through after his initial success, there was no question that Bowie was endlessly creative, and also always on the verge of trying something new. Peter Doggett tracks Bowie through a series of stylistic shifts even in his earliest years, evoked by everything from his one year experience as a junior visualizer at an ad agency, to On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Bowie went down many paths in his quest for recognition, beginning with non-threatening, typical pop music, expanding into rhythm & blues, becoming a part of the Mod movement, exploring cabaret and even being a part of a trio (Turquoise) that was an attempt to, “merge folk. . . with poetry and mime.”

Part two, “The Songs of David Bowie: 1969-1980,” follows Bowie after his initial success with the song “Space Oddity.” Despite the songs timeliness and popularity, Bowie is still off to a somewhat shaky start as he works on solidifying an identity for himself that the public can latch onto. At this point the biography shifts to a very unique style, choosing to analyze Bowie and the time period through his songs, combining biographical detail with lyric analysis and impact of cultural shifts.

The book’s third part is a collection of fascinating essays which analyze everything from “The Birth of Ziggy Stardust” to Bowie’s relationship with Iggy Pop.

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

The Man Who Sold the World is a fascinating look at what made David Bowie the icon he is today, and a fascinating resource for nearly anything you were wondering about nearly 250 of his songs. Best of all, Peter Dogget’s passion for the music really comes through, defeating the stereotype of the rather dry, plodding biography with both his language and unique formatting decisions.

If you are a Bowie fan like me, you will be fascinated by the discovery of what was behind the creation of Bowie’s many faces.