Since their 2006 debut launched them from the land of baby-stealing dingos to semi-Jackass soundtrack fame, Wolfmother have experienced the kinds of problem that plagues the classic-rock tyrannosaurs they’re tirelessly referencing: lineup changes. The original drummer and bassist quit the band last year after creative disputes with lead singer Andrew Stockdale, leaving him pondering the possibility of going solo. Instead, he reconstituted the band with new hired guns and cut Cosmic Egg, an unsurprising sophomore set that replicates its predecessor’s bombast in all its big-hair and big-riffs glory.
Cosmic Egg turns all the “maybe they’ll find their own voice” lines that came with reviews of the first Wolfmother album into cruel jokes. The entire point of Cosmic Egg is that Wolfmother don’t have their own voice; they’re hell-bent on referencing early-’70s hard rock, namely a certain led balloon, without the preening “don’t you get it?” jokes that usually come with this kind of wholesale sound copying. Wolfmother are deadly serious about this whole enterprise. They want to rock you all night long, if you’re willing.
Cosmic Egg is populated by mammoth riffs, banshee caterwauling and drums that sound like mountaintops being blown off. It’s also a place of broad, nonsensical metaphors, where women are demon queens (“California Queen”), outdated architecture provides inspiration (“Sundial” and “In the Castle”) and an egg from space makes for a good title/album art. Jumping on a band like Wolfmother for lyrical obtuseness is a zero sum game, though, since the lyrics are as unimportant (sample: “Slipped off into the slip stream/ She’s looking for the summer dream”) as they come.
All told, Cosmic Egg is a more considered album (which is understandable, since it’s been in the works for like three years), with fewer grandiloquent highlights than the first album. Many tracks seem to exist solely to blow the minds of the inevitable Guitar Hero players that will have trouble getting through this album on a high difficulty level. Instrumental mastery can provide for some fireworks (particularly on the opening triptych), but spending six minutes in service of sprawling songs with no substance (like most of the album’s middle third) doesn’t do anyone any favors.
But then there’s “New Moon Rising,” a song I’m fairly certain would have pushed all my buttons when I was in a stage when all I needed from music was a little aggression, some howling and a guitar solo breakdown that can only be described as “fucking epic.” Wolfmother can (probably) continue to eke out a career on a major label in a time when virtually no rock band is in the Top 40 (unless you count Kings of Leon, and well, shame on you), since they’re the only band on the block willing to be the musical equivalent of a van painting: over-the-top ridiculous and really awesome when you’re 16.