On Andrew W.K.'s 2002 major-label debut, ''I Get Wet,'' we laughed along as he and his heavy metal band of merry miscreants -- influenced by '80s cheese rockers like Journey and every guitar-pyrotechnics-fueled after-school-special theme song ever -- threw youthful care to the wind with ''It's Time to Party,'' ''Party Hard,'' and ''Party Til You Puke.'' But while the tunes were terrific three-chord power punches, the lack of depth and limited scope of subject matter made it all too easy to dismiss W.K. as a one-note kegger. And The Wolf, W.K.'s surprisingly thoughtful follow-up, has something to say to that.
For the most part, the late nights have given way to postulations on love, friendship -- and even a little day-after remorse. On ''Tear It Up,'' a get-knocked-down-again Chumbawamba-like chorus mixes with Warrant guitar riffs as W.K. gruffly laments, ''I played a lot of horrible songs/Yeah, a lot of them were bad/And when I listen back to the way I used to play/It only made me even more mad.''
Okay, not so mad that he didn't include a token party anthem, aptly titled ''Long Live the Party.'' But can you really fault the guy for wanting to display an air of familiarity with his fans? Besides, songs such as ''Never Let Down'' (''I never want to break your heart'') and ''Really in Love'' show that all that partying may have been merely to counter W.K.'s tender side. (Though ''The Wolf'''s more thoughtful moments suffer a minor setback with the idiotically id-fueled -- and thankfully short -- ''Make Sex.'')
Just because W.K. has found his soft center lyrically, it doesn't mean the music has lost any of its hard core. The guitar solos are now way, way over the top. At least they're in much better company, with a host of pleasing arrangements involving everything from choral singers to symphonic bombast.
There is no mistaking that W.K. put his heart and his all into the music on ''The Wolf.'' In fact, he even tells us so. On the uplifting Billy Corgan-esque heart-on-his-sleeve closer, ''I Love Music,'' W.K. sings: ''I want you to remember all the things that I said.../You are my faith/You are my friend.'' We'll party to that, you big lug!