The Wolf

There’s a fine line between stupid and clever — and hell-bent headbanger Andrew W.K. ain’t afraid to stampede back and forth across it with all the subtlety of a wolf in a chicken coop.

Monitoring the 24-year-old Michigan-bred singer’s maturation from his 2001 major-label debut, I Get Wet, to his follow-up, The Wolf, feels at times like tracing the evolution of man from the Homo erectus stage to the Neanderthal period. Not that W.K. is treading in a primordial sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry — though his latest paean to the joys of schtupp, “Make Sex” (“I don’t want to make life/I don’t want to make death/I don’t want to make love/I just want to make sex”), leaves that point open to debate. His lyrics, however, continue to inch along toward something resembling sophistication — just very, very slowly.

Consider the relative leaps he’s taken with The Wolf. Whereas I Get Wet championed the merits of high school keggers (“It’s Time to Party”), raging all-nighters (“Party Hard”) and their inevitable outcome (“Party Til You Puke”), W.K. wrestles weightier matters of revelry here, from the duration of the party (“Long Live the Party”) and teenage rebelliousness (“Your Rules”) to his own love of music (“I Love Music”) and spin on a kid-gloves romance (“Really In Love”). Hell, he even burps up a take on Operation Iraqi Freedom with this couplet: “If any last one of you ever likes to be part of this war/You get out, you get out.”

The music is, as always, a buoyant, so-ironic-it’s-no-longer-ironic celebration of pop, metal and dance that bursts with as much arena bravado (see ’70s Meat Loaf, Tubes) as it does cheesy sincerity. (If Danzig and Springsteen spawned a bastard, his name would be Andrew Wilkes-Krier.) And while “The Song” and the epic power ballad “Really in Love” represent his most ambitious sides to date, The Wolf is crammed start to finish with lighter-hoisting rock anthems that revel in their own absurdity, just as they should.

No one will ever confuse W.K. with Dylan or even Coverdale, but that’s part of his goofy charm. If anything, his writing is closer to Bat Out of Hell-era Jim Steinman. W.K.’s ear for irresistible hooks is the main attraction here, and it’s those hooks — and his purposely mind-numbing lyrics — that make The Wolf a frolicsome celebration of the cleverly stupid.

E-mail Rossiter Drake at [email protected].

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