The kids are alright, but sometimes you'd just wish they'd lighten up a bit.
Rowan Collinson 2008
From their name alone, you always knew Cold War Kids weren't going to be an easy listen. The Californian quartet's debut album Robbers And Cowards fused agonising vocals and pounding bass with bleak, troubled lyrics about rapists, criminals, and - on stand out track Hospital Beds - the terminally ill. Sitting through it in one listen was about as uplifting as a visit to the local cemetery.
Two years on and the Kids have returned with their sophomore album – Loyalty to Loyalty. On first listen not much has changed - Nathan Willets' bluesy howl lines still dominate proceedings, whilst the downbeat opener Against Privacy makes your grandmother's funeral feel like a Pussycat Dolls video. Anyone expecting more upbeat lyrics will be disappointed too – with tales of suicide on Golden Gate Jumpers, and domestic violence in Every Man I Fall For. Set to a sparse musical setting of pounding drums and screeching guitar, listening can often feel like a uphill struggle.
As the album progresses however, you get the sense Cold War Kids have tried to broaden their musical palette The stomping Mexican Dogs sounds not unlike the Raconteurs whilst honky-tonk piano gives a new depth to The Lake. There's even – gasp – a hint of optimism in the melodic, chiming chorus of Dreams Old Men Dream .
Loyalty To Loyalty will please those whole loved Cold War Kids' debut, but its unrelenting bleak tone may prove to much of a barrier for many. The kids are alright, but sometimes you'd just wish they'd lighten up a bit.