Wolfmother

Cosmic Egg

Written by: PP on 24/10/2009 18:01:24

The more I listen to Wolfmother's long awaited second album "Cosmic Egg", the more I become convinced that it is not their debut album. While that may sound obvious really, the point is that after the mega success that the band has had in the past four years with "Wolfmother", it would've been all too easy to just write a logical follow up of retardedly catchy, artsy hard rock pieces and become one the biggest bands in the world. But before I go any further, it's necessary to go through some background information. About a year and a half ago, when the band had finished ten songs according to their statements to the press, a massive fight erupted (or so we assume) between singer/guitarist/songwriter Andrew Stockdale and the other two members, resulting in a split that left only Mr. Stockdale in charge of the Wolfmother brand. This begs the question to be asked: is "Cosmic Egg"-era Wolfmother, with 2/3 of the band replaced with new members (it's now a four-piece!), still "Wolfmother" or a completely new outfit?

You could argue both ways, because Stockdale's trademark wailing vocals ensure that there's no doubt who's behind the microphone, but simultaneously the band has taken a rather radical step away from stoner-influenced hard rock into classic rock territory. There are plenty of passages where bands like Led Zeppelin & Lynyrd Skynyrd come into mind, and although the classic rock instrumentation has always been a part of Wolfmother's arsenal, it has never been used to as large of an extent as on "Cosmic Egg". As one reviewer put it: Wolfmother are "now referencing every other awesome band ever", citing Guns N Roses, Soundgarden and even Mr. Hendrix as reference points on the record, and I'm inclined to agree. "In The Castle", one of the best tracks on the record, starts with subtle, quiet strumming typical to many Skynyrd/Zeppelin songs, progressively adding instruments and sounds to the mix as the song goes on, before exploding into a groove-riff around 2 minutes to the song. "In The Morning" works precisely in the same manner. Stockdale's high-flying whiny vocals are the highlight of the whole album, and although we aren't treated to any absolutely ridiculous (as in, amazing) vocal melodies a la "White Unicorn", "Pyramid" or even "Apple Tree", several songs come pretty damn close. "Phoenix", for example, is about as retro-sounding as Wolfmother will ever get (though you never know), and here Stockdale nails the chorus big time. You'll be hearing this song for a long time to come should it ever be chosen as a single.

So yeah, the sound has changed. "California Queen" opens the album with a driving riff curiously reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Around The World", before proceeding head first into stoner rock territory. The lead single "New Moon Rising", however, is precisely the sort of of groove-driven track you'd expect Mr Stockdale to come up with, but for the most part, don't expect more "Woman"-type tracks on the record. "White Feather" has potential, but I think it falls a bit short in its chorus that treads a bit too far on pop territory for my liking. In fact, lots of the songs are great instrumentally, but it feels as if Stockdale is afraid to distort his vocals in the same manner as in seminal tracks like "White Unicorn". You see, the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have surely been poured into the production of "Cosmic Egg" have the effect that Stockdale's vocals sound way too overproduced and strangely distant from the mic than what we're used to hearing. It's as if there's much less emotion and power in them, which is a damn shame. A great example is found on "Far Away", which sounds a lot like Oasis in the verse parts. Hands up who wanted to hear Wolfmother try their luck in pop rock instead of writing more of the awesomely psychedelic hard rock tracks in the vein of Zeppelin? I didn't think so.

In the end, what it boils down to is this: "Wolfmother" had the sound of a small Aussie band that wrote a record that's as close to perfect as it comes in the genre, and then the world gradually found out about it. In comparison, "Cosmic Egg" sounds like a band who've forgotten to keep both feet in the ground because of the world wide fame, and as a consequence the songs, while still pretty awesome in their own way, are missing the last stretch to glue them to your mind permanently.

Download: California Queen, Phoenix, In The Castle
For the fans of: Led Zeppelin, The Vines, Guns 'N Roses
Listen: Myspace

Release date 27.10.2009
Modular Records / Interscope / Island

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