In summer 2008, Wolfmother’s rhythm section split the band. Undaunted, vocalist/guitarist Andrew Stockdale added a rhythm guitarist, found a new bassist and drummer and soldiered on under the same moniker. Judging by Cosmic Egg, however, this lineup change has had a negligible effect on Wolfmother’s sound. The Aussie rockers still honor rock ’n’ roll royalty (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin) and cult figures (Blue Cheer, Queens of the Stone Age), by combining proto-metal sludge, burnt-molasses boogie, hefty psych-rock and skidding blues-punk.
As on 2006’s Wolfmother, the band shines when it reigns in its grandiose tendencies. The funk-chug “California Queen,” Black Keys-esque “New Moon Rising” and “Phoenix,” which smolders like the crackling alterna-punk of Nirvana’s Nevermind, exhibit smart, concise songwriting. But curiously, Wolfmother’s most salient characteristic—Stockdale’s feral caterwauling, which is an unholy combination of Chris Cornell, Axl Rose and (especially and egregiously) Robert Plant—doesn’t have any lingering impact. Instead of conveying seething sexuality or bad-boy ’tude, his lurching shrieks are hollow and curiously dispassionate. Egg is the same way: For all of its ferocious riffs and tenacious ambition, it’s generally unfocused, generic and entirely forgettable. Wolfmother is obviously aiming for rock ’n’ roll greatness—but for now, it’s still just a pale imitation.