Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Last Genuine Rock Star -or- Actually Quite a Good Pianist

Bonnie Prince Billy played apparantly on the Conan O'Brien show a couple a nights ago. I think we can all agree that Bonnie Prince Billy is pretty great. Some people might think he's a little bit depressing, but you know what they can all go do.

But somehow, in this performance, which you can see on youtube, Will Oldham, despite his best running in place jerky ass dancing, is overshadowed, for me, by his poorly lit and slouchy piano player: Andrew WK. I have had a love hate relationship with Andy ever since I first heard him way way back when "Party Hard" came out in 2001. By now though, I've realized, that it is impossible to hate him, as it is impossible to hate a human being so emblematic of love as he is.

You can listen to an Andrew WK song and, especially if you don't speak English or as a rule don't pay attention to lyrics in pop songs (shame on you), come away with the idea that Andy and his music are violent and negative. The pulse, the screaming, the volume, all of this could easily give the listener the wrong idea about Andy and the emotions, the intent of his music. The truth of the matter is that as far as I know, Andy has never released a negative song, a song expressing anything other than happiness and the joy of living.

"Party Hard", "We Want Fun", "I Love Music", et cetera, may sound like they mean to speak to the opposite of what their actual subject matter is, but if you actually listen to the music (which Andy loves, can't you tell) the answer is right there. Music is about transcedence, community and communion, or, in more simple terms, music is about fun. And fun, in its purest sense, doesn't hurt anybody: it is a pure good. So how can anyone front on that?

Now, how does this fit in with him playing piano on national TV with the Oldham brothers? I honestly can't make heads of tails of it. Oldham's music isn't fun: it seems to clash with WK's very nature. But you'd have to be an idiot to believe that WK's life has been all parties, wonderful fulfilling sex, and rocking out, as his songs might lead you to believe. Andrew WK has seen the other side, and as a result his piano playing blends perfectly with Bonnie Billy's mood.

Though I may never be able to listen to more than two of WK's songs in a row without developing a splitting headache, I feel like performances like this one, the fact that he performed half of a huge world tour from a wheelchair after breaking his foot on stage, and the quality of his fucking heart (the heart of a lion or that of an angel?) will manage to keep him relevant, keep him working, and someday, I hope, he'll create an album that I'll be able to listen to straight through.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: "Strange Form of Life" from Pitchfork w/ video

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