It’s been a while since Wolfmother unleashed their first album on us. In the intervening four years, most of the band left, exploding in a firey ball of “irreconcilable personal and musical differences”.
Left behind in a crater that probably looked a bit like the cover of Led Zeppelin‘s Houses Of The Holy (only without the naked purple children, hopefully) was vocalist/guitarist Andrew Stockdale, and naturally he’s gone about assembling a new version of Wolfmother.
It seems a little unfair to his bandmates past and present to suggest that their presence is merely warranted due to practicality, but for those unaware of the disharmony in the Wolfmother ranks, the Cosmic Egg era Wolfmother sounds almost identical to the original line up.
Kicking things off in typically raucous style is California Queen. A riff pinched from the introduction of the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Around The World starts us off, while Stockdale wastes no time in whipping out his Robert Plant histrionics. And then silence. A quick confused look around, and then a huge Black Sabbath inspired section appears on the horizon, rattling the speaker cones.
Then we’re off and running again – foot to the floor rock ‘n’ roll just as it should be. Forget the ridiculous lyrical guff about rainbows and creation and this is a pretty decent introduction to another album of revisionist rock.
It’s fair to say that Wolfmother need to be listened to without any kind of cerebral engagement. If you think about it too much it’s all too easy to laugh at what they do. It’s unashamedly big and stupid and, if you adopt that mindset, there’s a fair chance you’ll have a reasonably enjoyable time in Wolfmother’s company.
As such it’s not a new take on rock and metal; whatever their line-up, they’re just not that kind of band. If you’re going to enjoy Cosmic Egg, you just have to accept that Wolfmother are a band content to live in the past. As such, every song here references the back catalogues of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin without apology. There’s no attempt to take those influences further and push the envelope at all, like bands such as Kyuss or OM have done. Instead, Wolfmother might as well be starring in a Life On Mars style docu-soap in which a contemporary band serves as a conduit for the sounds of the ’70s continuously.
Cosmic Egg just carries on where the original line-up left off. The production is a little bit cleaner perhaps (courtesy of Alan Moulder, no less) but otherwise all the characteristics of the original Wolfmother are more or less in place – big simplistic riffs, cosmic lyrical themes, and high pitched vocal acrobatics are all here in abundance.
Perhaps the only real change of direction comes courtesy of In The Morning, which attempts to add a bit of psychedelic era The Beatles into the mix. It almost works, despite the lyrics apparently having been channelled from Ringo. It’s tuneful in all the right places and huge and aggressive in just the right measure. But it outstays its welcome by a good couple minutes. The closing minute of Guitar Hero wibbling sounds disconcertingly like Oasis indulging themselves far too much (anything off Be Here Now for example) and it’s pretty unpleasant.
Indulgence does sometimes pay off though, and the six-minute closing track Violence Of The Sun is perhaps the high point of the album. Initially there’s no big riff smacking you in the face, just an electric piano slowly rolling away, allowing Stockdale to indulge in a pretty impressive overwrought vocal. Slowly but surely the band begins to enter the fray.
Primal guitars muscle their way in, fighting for space with some thunderously plodding drums. Naturally, it all heads off into spacerock territory, becoming increasingly expansive as a basic blues solo twists around Stockdale’s vocal. It’s the slowest moment on offer, and the song most at odds with the rest of the album. As such, it’s the most satisfying part of Cosmic Egg by far.
So there are no surprises here really, but then you wouldn’t really expect anything else from Wolfmother. Cosmic Egg is the kind of album you’d quite happily pop on for the first part of a road trip while you’re full of enthusiasm, but it’d quickly get changed at the first toilet stop.
Hopefully, with a new band in place, Wolfmother will slowly start to evolve their ideas into something not quite so reliant on a few dog-eared songbooks. For the time being we’re happy to wait for this egg to hatch and see what springs forth next time around.