Andrew W.K.'s debut album, I Get Wet, certainly seemed like the ultimate expression of his party-hard, don't-stop-livin'-in-the-red philosophy. But if he was supposed to be a one-album phenomenon, no one bothered to let him know: The Wolf, his second album, arrives just a year and a half after I Get Wet was released in the U.S. So, how do you top a debut that was already turned up to 11? By cranking it up to 12, of course. The excellently named album opener "Victory Strikes Again" does just that, and serves as The Wolf's sonic statement of intent -- it's all fist-in-the-air, exclamation-point climax, with Baroque metal guitar lines, insistent keyboards, and massed, shouted vocals that sound like an army of Andrew W.K.s ready to fight the good fight (or party the good party). "The Song," and the rest of the album, are so arena rock-ready that they sound like they were recorded in a stadium. At once lusher and heavier than the already massive I Get Wet, the album's expanded sonics match its larger sense of purpose. Andrew W.K.'s debut found meaning in partying, but The Wolf sounds like a party about finding some meaning in life. Celebrating friendship but being independent enough to go it alone, giving it your all, and never giving up are just some of the themes W.K. tackles on the album. And if lyrics like "Long Live the Party"'s "The more that you can give/Then the more it will be" and "I want you to remember what you came here to do/I want you to remember that I'm talkin' 'bout you" from the rousing finale "I Love Music" seem clichéd on paper, Andrew W.K.'s enthusiasm makes them sound heartfelt and infectious.
Some of the album builds on I Get Wet's nonstop rock: "Free Jumps," "Your Rules," and "Turn it Up" -- which chronicles W.K.'s past as a "jerk" -- sound like bigger, more articulate versions of the songs on his debut. However, on The Wolf W.K. is confident enough to slow things down on the anthemic "Never Let Down," "Rest of Our Lives," and "Really in Love," an immense power ballad with the great lyric "I do what I want/And I want you." Of course, there's still plenty of room on the album for just plain fun, as "The Song" and "Make Sex" -- on which "I don't wanna make life /I don't wanna make death/I don't wanna make love/I just wanna make sex" is chanted like "less filling/tastes great" -- demonstrate. Though W.K.'s sound can't really be described as subtle, The Wolf is crammed so full of music that it can take a few listens to sink in. Nevertheless, his music now has new dimensions, but still manages to sound like it could soundtrack the ending of some '80s teen movie. Even if Andrew W.K. didn't take over the world with I Get Wet, on The Wolf he still sounds like he has already.