A frenzied, frayed debut – but frequent swearing limits its crossover potential.
Mike Diver 2010
Sparking with an initially grabbing energy, a desperation that distorts front-screamer Maya’s vocals into a frenzied squeal, Cold in Berlin’s debut album is an everything-up-front release that keeps nothing in its locker for discovery a little later down the line. As one-dimensional as the decisions to translate many a modern blockbuster into 3D, it’s an experience that impresses through passion, but ultimately leaves the listener empty.
Part of the problem is the language – frequent cussing isn’t big nor clever, and Cold in Berlin seem keen as mustard to manoeuvre a wholly unnecessary curse into as many of their songs as possible. So where a band like Blood Red Shoes can pick up Radio 1 plays with fairly similarly styled compositions, this London trio will only ever be a niche concern – late night rather than drive time. What makes the repeated F-bombs all the more frustrating is that tracks like Inertia and Destruction are fiery pop-rockers that could, easily, be absorbed by mainstream audiences. A comparison to The Horrors isn’t so wide of the mark, either, as both groups would seem to be admirers of the goth-tinged aesthetic worn by the likes of The Birthday Party. Fine parallels, all, but Cold in Berlin are let down by self-inflicted lyrical ostracising.
But if you’re fond of your thrills cheap, and your rock ever-so-slightly frayed, Give Me Walls will tick a number of boxes. Every facet plays up to familiarity – the lull in White Horse is only ever going to foreshadow an eruption of noise, the industrial clank of If You Take Me Apart is coupled with an easy-on-the-ear chorus to balance its mechanical grind, and Break My Bones thrashes like several thousand toss-away pop-punk cuts has before. Everything’s performed as well as it should be, and Maya’s on strong form throughout – she’s half Shirley Manson threat, half Karen O feistiness, and full of Energizer Bunny bounce. But the predictability of it all shortens the shelf-life, and the swearing will see radio listening elsewhere for new UK bands worth giving a leg-up to.