PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Wolfmother: Cosmic Egg

This is not a new castle, but it's a fairly impressive renovation of the existing foundations.


Wolfmother

Cosmic Egg

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2009-10-27
UK Release Date: 2009-10-26
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Australian hard rock outfit Wolfmother is the sort of band that attracts unlikely fans in unlikely numbers. Their popularity is a sturdy bit of makeshift scaffolding cobbled together from various subcultures and mainstream offshoots; all expert estimates point to it being structurally unsound, but somehow it holds up. Their hoary, bombastic self-titled debut album earned chin-stroking critical optimism from both the fickle taste-arbiters at Pitchfork and Rolling Stone's frantic trend-chasers. It united the fist-pumping testosterone of the rock-radio crowd with socially-tentative World of Warcraft nerds with an eye to the fantastic and the mystical and, astoundingly, it gave Lars Ulrich and Thom Yorke a band that they could both agree to be good. For a lot of music fans, Wolfmother was at least vaguely addictive. Much like their oft-cited predecessor Led Zeppelin, try as you might, you can't quit them, baby.

Two people who could quit Wolfmother were bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett. The original rhythm section tuned out last summer, citing those publicists' favorites "irreconcilable personal and musical differences". Frontman Andrew Stockdale, he of the bobbing white-fro and galactic wail, preserved the lupine name and rotated in some session men. Always the main event anyway, Stockdale likely felt little would be lost, and the reconstituted Wolfmother's sophomore effort, Cosmic Egg, mostly proves him right.

Awash in distortion and shimmering cymbals, striding across a monolithic sonic landscape with resolute purpose, grounded in meaty riffs and Stockdale's expertly hazy melodies, Cosmic Egg is less a step forward from Wolfmother's debut than an extension of it. It's not a new castle, but it's a fairly impressive renovation of the existing foundations.

Like the massive floating egg towering over the wetlands on the album cover, the music inside is familiar but outsized, imposing but also faintly ridiculous and subtly cracked. The album-opener has rock-radio dominance firmly set in its mind; it might as well be titled "California Queen (of the Stone Age)". Lead single "New Moon Rising" is a hard-driving heavy blues, mostly earning the Creedence Clearwater Revival reference of the title. "White Feather" is lithe and immensely likable, and that's even before the cowbell pops up in the bridge. The band's breakthrough single "Woman" gets an obvious and uninspiring reworking in "Pilgrim". Rush-like tinges of traditional Asian styles open the relentlessly crunchy "Back Round". The title track is screwball metal scrubbed clean.

But the songs that stick are the multiple guitar epics. Predictably spaced-out (in both senses of the word), their scope is so humongous as to demand such separation. "In the Morning" is the most Zeppelinesque moment in an album full of them, even if the stoner-rock glory of "Cosmonaut" sees Stockdale outdoing the earlier track's falsetto reveries. The massive "In the Castle" climaxes with a martial guitar breakdown that evokes Spinal Tap; it's masterful, even if it's also inadvertently funny. "Caroline" and "Violence of the Sun" are probably the most progressive pieces featured here, both displaying keen soft-loud dynamics that hint at more dramatic depths than the mountainous rock that fills the open spaces elsewhere on the record.

The resultant record should reinforce Wolfmother's eclectic big-tent fanbase while simultaneously shoring up their odd teleological balancing act. There's hardly anything revelatory here, mind you, but turning to a Wolfmother album for revelation is like turning to a Mormon temple for a raunchy night out: it is, in a word, silly. Cosmic Egg stands outside of times and cultures and societies, a fortress in the clouds at the wispy fringes of credulity. It's unlikely, but it's inviting. That you aren't surprised by the bends of its corridors doesn't mean that they aren't ultimately worth exploring.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.