Cold War Kids

Monday, 04 December 2006

The Cold War Kid’s debut full-length album Robbers & Cowards out on Downtown Recordings is more or less a compilation of songs found on previously released EPs. Singer Nathan Willett’s amazing vocal pitch and dexterity is probably the first thing you’ll notice as you make your way through this record. The second track on the album, “Hang Me Up to Dry,” will undoubtedly paralyze you with its overwhelmingly hooky bass line and vocal melody followed by the funky surf guitar part played just after the chorus. It’s actually the perfect break-up song. Rhythmically, the song beats out a smug swagger designed to lead a couple through their last dance. It’s that one last erotic waltz with your girlfriend just before you walk out of her life forever.

As I listen, I can’t help but compare the dramatic feel of this album with some of Harry Nilsson’s songs. The songwriting is thoughtful and melodic yet a bit haunting, partly due to the reverb-drenched guitar sounds, and partly due to the songs’ subject matter. The songs visit some somber themes such as alcoholism, disease and religion but the gravity of these themes get lost in the music the same way a person’s problems get lost in a bottle of whiskey. In fact, the whiskey bar feel of songs like “God, Make Up Your Mind” demonstrate a nice mix of blues and jazz as the tune shuffles through a smoke-filled lounge highlighted by a two-part vocal harmony that sounds like Jeff Buckley singing side by side with Barry Gibb. What I like most about this album is its ability to take me back to my favorite musical decade: the 70s. Robbers & Cowards stirs up that familiarity I look for in albums with a modern flavor. I’m looking forward to the follow-up.

Comments are closed.