Andrew W.K.: The Wolf

It would be tough for Andrew W.K. to store up more goodwill than he already has: He's helped make gleeful rock music trendy, his marathon autograph sessions have become the stuff of folk legend, and, most impressively of all, his music makes listeners feel 14 again–in a good way. Short of saving Christmas, and don't think he wouldn't try, W.K. couldn't do much more to win people over. Last year's I Get Wet was a delightfully ingratiating slab of hedonistic celebration, from its song titles ("It's Time To Party," "Party Hard," "Party 'Til You Puke") to the way each individual second seemed painstakingly calibrated to rock harder than the one before it. Amazingly, W.K.'s follow-up, The Wolf, heads off in another thematic direction altogether, attempting to top its predecessor by delivering a messianic manifesto about believing in yourself, never giving up, and living every moment to the fullest. And damned if W.K.'s sloganeering doesn't cross the line into actual wisdom: There's something hair-raisingly powerful about the way "Totally Stupid" builds into an unstoppable live-for-today anthem, culminating with the line, "If we wait until tomorrow / will tomorrow ever come?" Given its earnest intention to change, or even save, its audience's lives, The Wolf tends to value majesty over economy, and fist-pumping over foot-tapping. Consequently, it's a little turgid in spots, but even that works in the favor of the closing manifesto "I Love Music" and the endearingly lumbering ballad "Really In Love," which all but hands each listener a lighter. Fans of I Get Wet may find fewer instant pleasures than expected here, but those are replaced by something grander, nobler, truer in intent, and just as satisfying. It's a stretch to call Andrew W.K. rock's messiah, but he's the best camp counselor it's ever had.

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