Andrew W.K. is a self-described one-man party machine. With his 2001 debut I Get Wet, he made it clear that he’s here to have fun—and you should be joining the party, too. But even while keeping up the “ party guy” bit for the past two decades, he’s taking us to a very different kind of rager with God Is Partying. W.K.’s music has characteristically been anthemic power-pop with metal influences, but this time, he’s ready to traverse deep into metal territory and embrace the doom and gloom.
W.K. leans into the nostalgia of classic acts like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, but with his own spin. Taking on a metal sound that instills memories of a specific era can be a gamble, but in God Is Partying, it works in W.K.’s favor. Right off the bat with the first track, W.K. lets us know that his metal record has arrived with “Everybody Sins.” It’s a head-banger, with chilling imagery that feels like a far cry from the optimistic outlook we heard in 2018’s You’re Not Alone. “Everybody sins / No one wins / What will you do / When the end begins? / When the angel makes dismay and sorrow,” warns W.K. He follows it up with one of his heaviest tracks yet, “Babalon,” with a punchy guitar solo that carries on for the first minute of the track that immediately draws you in. It’s an epic introduction to what’s in store in the album—literally, as he sings an ode to Babalon, occult goddess of liberation.
He carries the mythology into “No One To Know,” a track that opens with horns, evoking heavenly imagery. While the horns initially feel like they’re ushering us into mellower tones, thrashing drums and guitar quickly take over. But W.K.’s voice is melodic, making for one of the gentler tracks on God Is Partying, and convincingly feels like it could’ve been released four decades ago. But while “No One To Know” sounds softer (as “soft” as a typical Andrew W.K. song can be, anyway), it still carries the lyrical darkness present throughout the album: “It’s a new golden dawn / And the flute of the fawn / Plays a deafening tone / I’m completely alone / No one to see / No one to show”—a surprising take from the guy who reminded you you’re not alone on his previous record.
But that optimism hasn’t fully disappeared. “Stay True To Your Heart” is the poppiest track on God Is Partying: It features the aggressive guitars present throughout the record, but it’s a radio-friendly, synth-heavy burst of brightness. W.K. has described it as “a love song about partying, but only to an extent, and not in a very meaningful way.” While it’s not literally about partying (as many of W.K.’s songs are), it’s a call for celebration of, yes, staying true to your heart. The moment of sheer optimism feels fleeting, though, as it’s followed by eerie, synth-driven instrumental track “Goddess Partying” (a nod to the title number) that teeters between “horror movie score” and “music for a Shakespearean play.”
What W.K. perhaps loves even more than heavy guitars is synths, which don’t necessarily scream “metal,” but heighten the intensity of songs. Tracks like “I’m In Heaven” allow him to experiment by throwing together sounds that shouldn’t quite work, but somehow do. W.K. even adds Gregorian chants, adding a doom-like texture to it while keeping the celestial theme. It’s hardly lyrically exciting, with W.K. relying on repetition of variations of “take me to heaven” and “send me to heaven,” but that’s not the point. It’s not meant to be a track where his words shine; instead, the focus is on W.K.’s wails throughout the song.
W.K. seemingly addresses what went wrong with his previous label Sony in “Remember Your Oath,” singing, “You made a promise to a man / Signed the paper, shook his hand / Said you‘d never ever serve another / So he showed you what to see / And he taught you who to be / You thought you threw him a curve/when you walked away.”
And while W.K. spends most of the record showing his many artistic abilities and facility for shifting gears into something darker, he ends the album with two of his most vulnerable tracks. W.K. has refrained from discussing his divorce to Cherie Lily publicly, with fans finding out about the marriage dissolving after seeing the party god get engaged to actor Kat Dennings. W.K. seemingly addresses what went wrong in his marriage in “My Tower,” asserting that he’s ready to move on, declaring, “I‘ll never go back and try to find / The world of ours I left behind / We‘ll never see each other again / No, we’ll never see each other again.” It’s perhaps unintentionally one of the most interesting tracks on the record, starting off with a melody that feels reminiscent of AIR’s Virgin Suicides score (not a comparison we would’ve ever expected to make). But it swiftly transforms into an old-school metal track.
In case the permanent ending of W.K.’s partnership with Lily isn’t clear, he closes the record with “And Then We Blew Apart,” a piano-driven ballad that’s the most placid song in the album. But while the piano combined with big guitar riffs is an attention-grabbing combination, it’s hardly the most gripping song on the record, carrying perhaps the weakest lyrics. There’s something to be appreciated in W.K. interjecting his signature dirty humor as he sings, “We blew our load, we came together” but it doesn’t quite fit for what’s supposed to be a gut-punching grand finale.
With God Is Partying, W.K. isn’t closing the chapter on the persona that attracted so many fans in the first place. He’s merely showing that there’s a different side to the poster child for partying—and it’s not always going to be uplifting.