Songs soon lose their way in blizzards of fiddly guitar excess.
Jaime Gill 2009-10-20
Given that they’ve lost two-thirds of the original line-up since their surprise hit debut album of 2005, Wolfmother seem remarkably undeterred and unchanged on their second. Singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale still sounds like he’s trapped forever in 1972, his only hope of escape to rawk his way out, appropriating as many Led Zeppelin riffs as he can to do so. He’s described the making of Cosmic Egg as an “endurance test”: unfortunately, the same could often be said of listening to it.
Of course, criticising Wolfmother for being retro is a little like criticising a shark for having teeth: what did you expect? And at first the record’s more-is-more pile-up of slamming guitars and histrionic vocals is indeed meaty, helped by Stockdale’s exuberant talent as a guitarist. But by the end of the twelfth and final track (more if you’re a vinyl fan and/or masochist) you've been served the same dish so many times it’s like eating Christmas leftovers in January: familiar, stale and slightly depressing.
Stockdale’s passion for the seventies proto-metal he plunders is undeniable, and even contagious at first. California Queen is a savage, pummelling opener which achieves the desired effect of making you feel like you’re speeding through Big Sur on a Harley, while the Free-stealing White Feather is crammed with brilliantly crunchy riffs. By Sundial, however, the ceaseless blustering has become more wearing than endearing, a process culminating in the over-baked In the Castle, an apparent attempt to squeeze all of the most dunderheaded moments of Black Sabbath and Zeppelin into one cliché-strewn song.
There are tantalising moments where Wolfmother try something different. In the Morning begins as a dreamy, Beatles-y reverie, while Far Away announces itself with sweetly chiming guitar, but both soon lose their way in a blizzard of fiddly excess, as though auditioning for a lucrative spot on Guitar Hero 36.
“Did you improve on the design? Did you do something new?” Lupe Fiasco asked on 2007’s scathing Superstar, a question every musician should constantly ask themselves. As for all of Stockdale’s conviction and ability, Cosmic Egg does neither.