The self-titled 2005 debut of Australia’s hard-rawking Wolfmother played like the soundtrack to a feature-length car commercial. Each individual riff seemed hand-picked for maximum chug ’n’ burn, the vocals were wide and soaring just like the sky above the open road, and even the softer moments felt stiff and high-sheen, not unlike a leather interior. Wolfmother was young, and it sopped up a whole bunch of the biggest moments in psych and heavy blues, then glazed that precocious, oozing mess with studio gloss. But it’s been four years, and two of the original trio quit in that interim, leaving head ’Mother Andrew Stockdale free to assemble the tight, focused four-piece that does his bidding on Cosmic Egg.
On this album, Wolfmother becomes a band worth paying attention to. Sure, you’ll still hear Led Zep in “New Moon Rising,” Jack White in “Sundial,” Queens Of The Stone Age in “Cosmic Egg,” and Ozzy in “In The Castle,” but the connective tissue makes the difference. There’s no acoustic noodle (only one ballad, well-placed) and no overreaching mystical slop about unicorns (Stockdale name-checks the metaphorically kosher “Phoenix” instead), leaving those towering vocals to lord over a citadel of grind. “California Queen” blazes through biker blues at full tilt, making half-time slogs through awesome muck its only pit stops. “10,000 Feet” is legitimately sludgy and packed with unexpected minor harmonies and striking guitar-play. “In The Morning” presents a grittier psychedelia free of studio trickery and full of emotional resonance. Of course, these songs could still sell a car, but it’d have to be something as sensible as it is grandiose, like a Prius with wings.