After seeing Cold War Kids perform at Washington Park for the 2011 Tulip Festival, I was left with deep-seated feelings of regret and sorrow as though I had just experienced the loss of a loved one. As I walked away from the stage, the sound of another awful cut from Mine Is Yours filled the air. The insipid attempt at pop music began to fade and at the exact moment the attack on my ears ceased, the sky opened up and Mother Nature relieved herself on my defeated soul. I knew at that exact moment I had witnessed the slow death of a formerly great band. Here is my obituary: Cold War Kids, you will be missed.
In the winter of 2006/2007, I was introduced to Robbers & Cowards, the brilliant debut album from Cold War Kids. The album’s off kilter piano, jerky guitar and soulful vocals inundated my body with overwhelming joy and happiness. The emptiness of Albany during winter break, with all its might, could not hold me down. The next month was full of half-conscious sing-alongs to “We Used To Vacation” and wholehearted (but truly atrocious) renditions of “Hospital Beds”.
The quartet, from Long Beach, CA, had crafted an album that’s beauty is only matched by its soul. The record sounds like music from a better time, as Nathan Willett sings his version of the millennium era blues. When he crows, “I promised to my wife and children, I’d never touch another drink as long as I live. But even then it sounds so soothing, to mix a gin and sink into oblivion,” on “We Used To Vacation” , you feel the pain of a drunkard who’s pissed away the last of the holiday money on yet another bottle. “Saint John” is reminiscent of a 19th century Freedom Song and you feel like one of the inmates chanting, “All us boys on death row, we’re just waiting for a pardon.” His vocal performance on this record is transcendent and would make his Blues forefathers proud.
Check out Cold War Kids, in their heyday.
Their second album, Loyalty to Loyalty, was never going to be able to overtake its predecessor, but was still a quality record. The group explored new ground without losing track of what made Robbers & Cowards so incredible. Album highlights, like “Every Valley is Not a Lake” and “Relief”, hold their own with the heavyweights of the first record, while a limited number of the tracks fall flat. It still has what made this band so great: soul.
In February of 2010, the news was announced that Cold War Kids were working on their third album and they’d be working with producer Jacquire King; a producer best known for vapid, bullshit excuses for rock music, like Switchfoot and Kings of Leon. Speaking to Filter Magazine, Willett had this to say about working with King: “So, he is going to work miracles with us. All of our music has always been written entirely by us without any influence, so to have him step in and help us with the direction is tremendous…we are taking what we do to the next level on this record.”
Translation: Jacquire King is going to suck out the life force of our music in the hope that its corpse will satisfy his pack of rabid wolves that feed on the decaying carcasses of small-time indie bands desperate for commercial success. The result of these torture (recording) sessions is the festering turd of a record, released to the public under the guise of Mine Is Yours.
I bought this in the hope that Cold War Kids could survive, but as I pressed play on my iPod, the savage nature of the beating was revealed to me. It was like stumbling upon the remains of a grisly car wreck; simply horrifying. After nine horrendous songs, I found a sign of life in the chorus of “Cold Toes on the Cold Floor,” but nothing materializes; it dies like every other song and the executioner laughed at my false sense of hope.
I arrived at Washington Park last weekend with my last shred of belief held firmly in my hands. It was ripped from my possession all too quickly as I discovered the four undead corpses of Cold War Kids. They trudged around the stage seeking the approval of UAlbany frat boys and teenage wannabe hipsters like hungry zombies starving for brains. I could only bear five songs before I sought solace at the bottom of a pint glass. And as I sat in the Palais Royale, contemplating the needless death of a talented band, I was left with one comforting thought: we’ll always have Robbers & Cowards.