On his first album of new rock material in nearly 12 years, Andrew W.K. returns to the massive, orchestrated pop-metal sound of his thrilling 2002 debut, I Get Wet, promoting his lifelong vision of positivity and yes, the power of partying. For the better part of two decades, the white-clad New York rocker has reshaped the word "party" into an all-purpose stand-in for terms like bravery, spontaneity, triumph, and healing. On the album cover for You're Not Alone, a painting he commissioned from legendary fantasy illustrators Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell depicts the singer intently staring down a demon serpent at the edge of an eerily lit suburban street, asserting himself as the slayer of despairs and doubts. The album itself is a 16-track booster shot of self-worth in the form of highly shoutable, wildly over the top, orchestrated rock music. Led by the exuberant singles "Music Is Worth Living For" and "Ever Again," You're Not Alone plays on the signature melodic sound of W.K.'s early days while making a few detours into spoken word pep talks, presumably developed during his 2016 Power of Partying speaking tour, and even an amiable if slightly goofy Brian Wilson-inspired track called "Party Mindset," which has some of the weird charm of a late-'70s Beach Boys deep cut. The lyrics are generally simple and straightforward, conveying themes of acceptance, self-motivation, and embracing life's ups and downs. At 53 minutes, You're Not Alone might have benefited from some trimming, especially given its relentless volume and energy, though it's not without its dynamics.
Are there artists releasing music of greater nuance and tonal complexity in 2018? Certainly, but what does one really want out of an Andrew W.K. record? He's already recorded a solo improvisational piano album, played bass for Baby Dee, and covered songs from a Japanese science fiction series. From his music to his advice columns and speaking engagements, he's devoted his entire career to championing the virtues of the self and promoting his philosophy of feeling good. On You're Not Alone, the listener is always the hero on the verge of a life-changing breakthrough, overcoming personal barriers, or winning it all with a walk-off grand slam. There's nothing exclusive about his club; anyone can join. In an era of such toxic social and political division, W.K.'s inclusive messages of joy and unity are a welcome respite from what feels like a perpetual torrent of bad news. On "Confusion and Clarity," the last of his three spoken word affirmations, he encourages celebrating "the parts of life that we're absolutely clear about, the parts of life that bring us undeniable and reliable joy." He's not partisan, he just wants us all to party!