Every once in awhile, an album or band becomes so closely connected to a specific game that the two are almost inseparable for me. This series will hopefully document some of these entirely personal connections.
10 years ago, an album was released onto a largely unsuspecting world by a man named Andrew WK. That album, I Get Wet, was recently re-released in a deluxe 2 disc edition. For the special fans out there, 500 collector’s editions were made, which contain, in addition to the album, either a lock of Mr. WK’s hair, a piece of his worn white jeans, or a used plane ticket.
Of course I bought this.
And here we go with a tour, complete with shitty Instagram photos because if I am taking pictures with a cellphone, I might as well go all the fucking way with it.
Here it is, in all its glory. That cover. It’s not all AWK’s blood, as apparently they used some pig’s blood as well, but he definitely did give himself a nosebleed for this, so that is impressive.
This whole thing came in one of those old style double CD cases, which I really don’t see much of any more, but I have no nostalgic feelings for at all, since they are terrible and crack easily and such. But here it is, and given the album, it feels fitting somewhat.
My own little piece of AWKness, a piece of his famous white jeans. Up close? You know it.
As you can (maybe?) see, they are clearly dirty, and just in case you wondered, I did open the bag for a second, and yes, they do smell like sweaty dude. Very sweaty dude. I would guess the piece I have belongs to one of the front pockets, since it is a finished seam with a bit of a curve, but it could be anything really.
The book for the CD, signed by the man himself, who of course wrote all over his own face.
Inside of the second disc’s compartment, we have an official AWK air freshener. Why yes, let’s examine that on its own.
THE SCENT OF PARTY! THE FRAGRANCE OF PURE FUN! DELUXE DOUBLE-SIDED DESIGN!
This little beast was included to counter the smell of the jeans. And it did an admirable job to say the least. When I opened the package, the scent of this little puppy (which is just vaguely air freshener-ish) filled the air. Good job, scent of party.
Finally, the back cover. The track list is there, with disc 1 just being the original album, and disc 2 being a pretty amusing combination of demos and live versions of songs from the album, with one sorta-remix one song that he recorded for the Arizona Sundogs college hockey team. The live tracks are pretty amazing, actually, as there is a lot of fun noise in the intros/closings (AWK knows the guys in Wolf Eyes, and sometimes it shows), and the songs themselves feel perfectly loud and chaotic and seem very close to just falling apart.
And yes, STEEV MIKE is all over this.
Now’s a time to admit I was not “cool” in college. Or “with it”. Or whatever. I don’t know what you want to call it. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of what happened in music from the fall of 1999 to around sometime in 2004. I was still listening to music, and finding new stuff, but mostly just filling in my back catalog of stuff that as an early 20-something I didn’t know. I was getting into Guided by Voices older stuff, listening to all sorts of older things, and I had no idea AWK even happened as a thing. I had heard his name, heard his song in Jackass, and I liked it, but I just never picked it up for some reason or other. I didn’t even know what Pitchfork was, let alone that they gave this album a 0.6.
Some time early in 2004, I was at a Best Buy in Columbus, Ohio, and I saw the cover for the first time, and I thought “man, I need to buy that.” So I did.
And I listened to that thing over and over and over again. For awhile it was just the CD I listened to whenever. I graduated college that summer listening to that album and the first Tenacious D album, or at least I remember it that way so don’t correct me if I am wrong. When I moved to Cleveland for grad school, I sorta stopped for a bit.
And then Black happened.
Black was a 2006 first-person shooter developed by Criterion, the studio most widely known for the Burnout games. The Burnout games were racing games known for having car crashes like no other, with shattered glass flying everywhere, and distorted car bodies, and strangely always lacking drivers. What shattered glass was to Burnout, particles of walls and explosions were to Black.
Black was sold as “gun porn” and some people (mostly gun enthusiasts) took this to mean that it would be accurate and realistic in it’s presentation of guns. These people clearly have never thought about actual porn and its relation to actual human sex.
Guns in Black make things explode, and make people die, and make anything that is red explode and make more people die. Mechanically, that is all there really is to it. There’s not really anything too notable about the game as an FPS, aside from this purity of play, combined with a strong desire to be as close to great action scenes as it can be without getting sued (and man, they got close a couple times).
Well, all of that, and the pacing of it all (aside from stage 2, which I still think was a big hiccup in the game).
The game was built with each stage (again, 2 excepted) staring with a few moments of quiet, and then all hell breaking loose, the player running forward shooting and grabbing guns, making death and explosions and fun occur. OK, good enough to be a decent little game, but the original Xbox pushed it over the edge with a specific option that only that console had, custom soundtracks.
Systems after the original Xbox have largely fucked this idea up. If you boot up a 360, you can play any song over any game, and it just goes on playing no matter what is on screen, unless a movie shows up and the game tells the soundtrack to knock it off for a second. But the original Xbox did it right, allowing games to queue up songs with loading levels, and synchronized it all wonderfully.
In Black, this worked perfectly. Start a level, and the next song on the playlist starts up, and if you picked the right song, it just worked.
I Get Wet is an album full of those songs. Songs start with little intros, and then full on blasts of SOUND. The title song “I Get Wet” has this perfect opening of synthesized horns, blaring out and then the chugging drums and everything kick in, and it all goes full on. When paired with Black, this makes the game. Suddenly, I feel like I am dancing in-game to the music, and I want to make the explosions happen to the beat. It lines up perfectly. When the songs take breaks, I want to take breaks. The game becomes an action movie music video machine.
People who played this on the PS2 missed this, and I always felt like it was impossible to appreciate this game without it. If you ever have a chance to do this, on an original Xbox, I can’t recommend it enough.