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Andrew Wilkes-Krier is not a religious man. He even says so himself. But despite the white-clad hard rocker’s professed distaste for Christian rules (well, actually, any rules), a good chunk of his rhetoric is downright New Testament-like. In interviews, the 24-year-old Floridian talks about how he hopes his neo-cock-rock songs will make listeners feel really good about themselves, greeting them with “a big, firm handshake and a hug,” not a kick in the ass. On his Web site, meanwhile, W.K. invokes J.C.’s Golden Rule and pumps it up Andrew-style: “NOW IS THE TIME to be less of a jerk and more of a friend.”

Indeed, W.K. is so relentlessly inclusive—and his Meatloaf-meets-Ramones breakthrough disc so bludgeon-direct—that many fans and detractors alike believe he’s simply a joke. And just browsing through some of I Get Wet’s beer-commercial-worthy song titles—”It’s Time to Party,” “Party Hard,” “Party ‘Til You Puke,” etc.—it’s hard to imagine how he could be serious. The ex-bubble-gum-machine salesman was even going to call his new album Blow Your Bone until his mom made him change it. So, yeah, you could be forgiven for thinking that W.K. is either a novelty act (read: Tenacious D) or impossibly shallow (read: Great White). But in reality he’s neither.

For evidence, look no further than “Tear It Up,” the muscular first single from W.K.’s new The Wolf, which appropriates almost everything dumb about ’80s hair metal: skyscraper-sized power chords, cavernous drums, and tons of “whoa-oh” backing vocals. But that’s where the authenticity ends and the revisionism begins. For starters, there’s no superheroic guitar solo, and the abstract-noise intro comes across more like a track by W.K.’s inaccessible Bulb Records pals Wolf Eyes than anything that has a shot at TRL.

And then there are the lyrics. Obviously autobiographical, the song deals with W.K.’s self-described solitary childhood: “I hung out on my own/I went it alone/And probably really looked like a fool/…I’ll always tear it up on my own,” he growls. This isn’t good ol’ search-and-destroy punk rockitude, though. For W.K., tearing it up is more about individualism than nihilism. His party doesn’t require anyone else’s presence—though it never hurts, which is why there’s no lack of honest-to-goodness party talk on The Wolf.

Still, there’s a lot less than there was on I Get Wet. Even the cut with the most revelry-centric title, “Long Live the Party,” is really about something else. What begins with a standard W.K. catch phrase—”I want to have a party/You cannot kill the party”—soon turns spiritual: As the meth-head rumble gives way to a Yes-style synth melody, a chorus of what sounds like roughly a thousand W.K.s sings, “All we ever wanted was a thing to believe/And now that we have found it we have all that we need.” On paper, this might read kinda goofy. But on record, delivered in W.K.’s earnest bellow, it’s pretty much inspirational. You could even say that, to borrow language from the man himself, it kills.

That’s because W.K. has a particular talent for making extreme contrasts feel completely unforced. After all, this is a guy who followed up bloodying his own nose for the cover of I Get Wet with a sweet-as-can-be coed slumber party for MTV’s Crashing With, hair-braiding session and all. Both demonstrated Andrew’s essential guilelessness—which is exactly the quality that allows him to pull off a power ballad called “The Song” way better than Jack Black ever could. “You’re coming for the sound/Don’t ever stop the pleasure/Remember what it’s like coming down,” W.K. sings on the chorus, making it clear that the track is about nothing more ironic than being a fan. Anybody who’s ever skipped lunch to buy a CD, or worked a crappy job to afford a guitar, or opted for a concert over a good night’s sleep knows exactly what he’s talking about. Those who haven’t are referred to the slightly more straightforward “I Love Music,” which transforms baroque pop-metal into gospel gold with a simple music-nerd confession: “You are my faith/You are my friend/You are my family.”

Some critics have asserted that The Wolf is just I Get Wet Part 2. But not only are the lyrics less frat-boy-ish, the music is more dynamic. W.K. said that he wanted the uniformly speedy I Get Wet to be the sound of one huge instrument churning out his songs, and that’s exactly what it sounds like. This time, he and his metal-vet band took a different approach, varying the tempo from song to song. And every once in a while, individual instruments even peek out of the density. On “Victory Strikes Again” and “Totally Stupid,” for example, the sports-anthem melodies of guitarists Jimmy Coup, Frank Werner, and Erik Payne get shoved way up in the mix. And on “Make Sex,” ex-Obituary drummer Donald Tardy—who W.K. claims is the band’s conductor—hogs the spotlight, pounding out a tribal rhythm that sounds like an outtake from Public Image Ltd.’s drum-heavy Flowers of Romance.

But even if The Wolf sounds like more of a band effort, there probably isn’t a single second of improvisation on the whole album. Like I Get Wet, the disc is meticulously planned and produced within an inch of its life. Yet it’s a more interesting record than its predecessor. And that’s due less to muso stuff than to the newly articulate W.K., who’s become much better at defining what all this partying really means: He just wants to rock others as he would like to be rocked. CP