With a few EPs and a couple of renowned festivals under their belt - Lollapalooza and South by Southwest - Cold War Kids have finally released (in late 2006 actually) their full-length album, Robbers and Cowards. Like a few of their indie predecessors, Cold War Kids borrows from 1970s legends like Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground for their sound, but it is within this sound that they embody that era rather than just copy it. This is evidenced by their stripped down, bare bones style, cultivated from years of banging on plywood walls and yelling into tape recorders (I stole that description from their record labels site, by the way). Their mix of sounds creates a smolderingly energetic loose-limbed blues that sets them apart from others in their respective genre.
The album kicks off with "We Used to Vacation," a track that gives Cold War Kids a chance to strut their stuff with a rough piano arrangement coupled with jagged guitar riffs and frontman Nathan Willets soulful, though occasionally whiny, voice. This is a recipe for the good, catchy, and accessible music that Cold War Kids are so skilled at crafting. There are many examples of this sound sprinkled throughout the album, especially in the beginning, but the quartet aims to mix it up and thats exactly what they do in the albums latter half. With songs like "Robbers," "Pregnant," and "God, Make Up Your Mind," Cold War Kids forges landscapes of melancholy, yet blissful, musicality through chanting tambourines, slow drums, and subtle acoustic guitars.
One track that could be described as stand out is "St. John," a catchy gospel number that tells a very interesting story. It sings of a man who kills another man with a brick because he attacks his sister; the songs strength lies in its lyrics, which put the listener in a prison where chants of old St. John on death row, hes just waiting for a pardon echo on the walls. That is just one example of the 70s inspired lyrics that permeate Robbers and Cowards; the album is chock full of non-standard English and playful language. My only problem with the album is that Willets voice, as was mentioned earlier in the review, can get kind of high-pitched and whiny in a few songs. His crooning is effective most of the time, but it can go overboard.
Aside from that, Cold War Kids are a strong answer to the questions of those looking for blues and soul mixed with a dash of indie flair. They blend these oldies in a new way and theyve stripped their music down to its very core: raw emotion. This is definitely a band to watch and an album to buy, so that you can, in their words, Join the kids on both coasts!
9.0 / 10
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