Sound — 8
I always get excited when a new band finds itself a name that's original and that sounds good. Too bad when it turns out the band's crappy -- it's like, there are already not too much good names for the bands left after 50 years of rock 'n' roll, and now there's some asshole wasting an amazing name for shitty music! I breathe out now -- with Cold War Kids there's no reason for disappointment... Fullerton, California natives, Cold War Kids made their way to Los Angeles, where they signed to Monarchy Music and released a debut EP in 2005. Robbers & Cowards, out October 10 on Downtown Records, is their debut major label LP. The influences are as great as Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley, and the Velvet Underground! All of those are pretty well mixed and you won't find five in a row Dylan's guitar chords or Holiday vocal solo sticking out. The music is creative and it doesn't follow any standards. I'm pretty much sure Cold War Kids could care less about what the critics will say about it. And that's one of the best things about it all! All songs are upbeat and cheerful, I do believe the band is full of energy when it comes to writing music. Besides, it is soul-based, which by itself is half way through to a timeless record. Apart from tempo changes and sudden break-ups, the record is full of great little features -- like a wonderful drum solo at the end of Robbers or an off-pitch piano in Hang Me Up To Dry. Plus the sounds of hell knows what almost at the end or the beginning of every track. Bells and tambourine along with handclaps are a nice addition and remind us about America's music roots. Pregnant could pretty well make an alternative lullaby if not it's off-key chorus and abortion context. Hair Down is groovy (thanx to it's rolling toms) and is almost dancing. Saint John way too obviously reminds Door Bell by The White Stripes. It's such a black spot on an album full of well-written songs, that it made me think there should be something wrong. Maybe they did it on some purpose and forgot to mention it? I know Door Bell is from the two-years-old album, but hey, we still remember The White Stripes!
Lyrics — 8
Nathan Willett starts Pregnant whistling and sings in a sugary sweet voice about Mouth full of sweets followed by Rotting your teeth. He performs in a high-pitched voice, switching it suddenly to yarning sleepy one, dragging out words. He can be desperate (in Hang Me Up To Dry), be aggressive (in Rubidoux), be cheerful (in Saint John), be serious (in We Used To Vacation). Nathan Willett's voice is something in between a woman and a man singing... Not to say it's gay... I'd say it's just his passion coming out. You can compare Willett to Jack White, but Willett is still a few tones lower. Sometimes.
Overall Impression — 9
The first impression you get after listening is that everything is great and it's just a wonderful bunch of songs. Give the album a few listens and you'll find a few stand-outs -- like We Used To Vacation, Hang Me Up To Dry and Robbers. All tracks are very individual, each caring a story along the way. Even if there are not too many words describing it, there're plenty of impressive vivid details. There are legends going on about the band's spectacular live performances and you can actually realize it listening to Robbers & Cowards -- the studio record manages to keep the improvisational part of the music in it. With all of the above being said, Robbers and Cowards it far too good for the debut! The answer may be in the fact that except two new songs, everything else is borrowed from the band's previous Up in Rags and With Our Wallets Full EPs. Which means they had time to polish the sound. Anyway, that doesn't decrease their excellence. Cold War Kids are absolutely potential and have talent and ambitions worth for a few bands. They claim to listen to their tiny inner voice making music. Whatever it is they keep inside, it sure is a great treasure!