Album Reviews

Cold War Kids – Robbers And Cowards

(V2) UK release date: 5 February 2007


The corporate cogs that make up the music business, just like the times, are a-changing. Gone are the days when the new band on the scene would have to ‘pay their dues’ and develop their sound. Instead, we are living in the age of the over-night internet sensation. Riding the wave of the MySpacers come California quartet Cold War Kids.

The internet music boom has sparked a series of contentious debates ever since Metallica decided they didn’t already have enough money, and sued Napster. Now, any band can get themselves heard as long as they have some rudimentary recording equipment and a MySpace account.

This invariably means that we, as the music listening public, are presented with an overwhelming array of choice. Bands are made and broken on the strength of the bloggers hype and here in lies the argument. On the one hand, music is now being championed by the common man, undiscovered gems are being found where once they might never have had the chance to shine. On the other, we are now being presented with an indeterminable amount of execrable rubbish, all of which sounds just like last weeks ‘over-night internet sensation’. So where oh where do Cold War Kids fit into the mix?

Supposedly hailed as members of the blue-collar rock revival, Cold War Kids sound like, on the surface at least, a rag-tag bunch of swaying, slurring, American Dream idealists. The blues is their bag, that much is for sure, and they sort of fill a void between The White Stripes and The Walkmen, with an added pinch of Indie Conservatism.

Vocalist Nathan Willet wails and hollers his way through the record and, talented singer though he is, tends to steal the focus from the rest of the band. The band themselves are definitely worth a mention though. With tinkling off kilter pianos and jagged, somewhat jarring guitars, the sound is a pleasing one, if a little polished and too purposefully erratic in places.

Their debut album Robbers & Cowards, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. Album opener We Used To Vacation is a stomping, rattlesnake shaking see-saw of a song. A raucous document of the highs and lows of alcoholism, the perfectly pitched tempo change makes me smile every time. Directly after this we are presented with another solid tune in the shape of Hang Me Out To Dry, a rumbling bass taking centre stage whilst Willet invokes pictures of “the muck and the mire”. After this though they begin to run out of steam. Sequentially this album runs down the drain like a stream of water from a tap, strong at first but petering out and losing momentum by the time it reaches its dragging conclusion.

It’s a sad fact that the overarching feeling resounding throughout this record is one of familiarity. The slowly decaying and stagnant, internet fuelled Indie scene is starting to cloy, and Cold War Kids have got mixed up in the melting pot. That isn’t to say that this is a bad album but it definitely doesn’t deserve the headache inducing amount of hype that has surrounded it.


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Interview – Cold War Kids