It may not be the best move for the first album released on your vanity label to be 38 minutes of piano doodling. It’s even worse when said doodling is improvised, unaccompanied and entirely aimless—less an expression of newfound artistic freedom than something spit out to fulfill a contract. The fact that Andrew W.K. is a classically trained pianist has been floating around from the beginning of his career, an amusing bit of trivia that seemed to fly directly in the face of his overcharged, fist-pumping persona. He pushed this further on 2003’s The Wolf, recording all of the instrumental parts himself. Yet none of this is enough preparation for 55 Cadillac, which, billed as “new age,” takes inconsequentiality and formlessness to an extent that few albums reach.
If W.K.‘s aim was to prove once and for all his capabilities beyond the insistent plinking of a single note, then mission accomplished. But beyond that, all the album manages to do is crystallize the sound of someone playing a piano: not especially well, not especially badly—mostly just messing around. There’s an automotive theme to all this, which you can tell because of the title and the cover, as well as the fact that there are engine sound effects between each track. How this is otherwise related to the musician’s car is a mystery.
But it’s this mysterious weirdness that also makes the album impossible to hate. It’s hard to speak ill of W.K., whose insistent excitement is disarming, and though the album is a mess, it’s shiftless meanderings further his ethos of refusing to take rock stardom seriously. It’s a fitting lead-in to his next project, an album of covers from the Gundam series and a continuing reminder that W.K. will do what he feels like doing, inexplicable as it may be. It’s a nice message, and one that you can thankfully appreciate without ever listening to the album.