Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty
Record Label: Downtown Records
Release Date: September 23, 2008
I’ve been spinning Loyalty to Loyalty quite a bit, but I’m not entirely sure why. (Here’s a hint: It rhymes with shmeview.) Robbers and Cowards was an instantly accessible hit with a formula of nostalgic southern rock and college radio indie. It was just weird enough to be cool, and just cool enough to make up for the weird. Loyalty to Loyalty doesn’t lose these qualities, but they are a bit harder to differentiate. Take the album’s opener “Against Privacy,” there’s very little melody in this bluesy, instrumentally sparse number. Simple cymbal taps and Nathan Willett’s uniquely conversational voice jumbles from place to place with no foreseeable agenda. It’s a strange way to start a Cold War Kids album, especially when they’re most known for a song with chorus galore like “Hang Me Up To Dry.” But it also makes perfect sense because, on first listen, there is no real way to tell what the rest of Loyalty to Loyalty will actually sound like. You have to find out for yourself, thus instantly requiring involvement on the listener’s part. Though the real question is, obviously: What does in fact lie beyond? Well, it’s an odd ride full of nagging vocals, piano ballads and, to be perfectly honest, scant amounts of fun.
Whereas the tribal drums of “Passing The Hat" were enforced by a parlor piano, the similarly beaten “Welcome to the Occupation” has no backbone. The song is an ode to the young working class, but the guitars are never given the green light to fully wail like we need them to. This is the biggest problem with Loyalty to Loyalty. It’s easy to see the great ideas from previous songs at work here, but there seems to be an intentional restraint placed on the bands likeable pop inclinations. This can be largely attributed to the album’s focus on Willett’s vocals: his numbing falsetto on the almost fantastic, electronica-influenced “Relief” requires quite a strong stomach. “Avalanche in B” was probably written in the 1920’s while dudes in awesome top hats played poker right before having sex with prostitutes. Sounds cool, but the non-existent guitars and heavy piano places Willett right in the spotlight. If his vocals were visible on this song, they’d be gray, scraggly and shaped like lighting bolts. Slower jams were never his – or the band’s - strong point, and this song proves it once and for all.
But we do have a few shining moments here, too. “Every Valley Is Not A Lake” begins with warbling guitars and, finally, some rhythmic drumming. Willett might still break your speakers, but there’s at least some movement and rock ‘n roll to prop him up. “Dreams Old Men Dream” finds the band sticking to their strengths with restrained singing from Willett and quite the melodic guitar solo from Jonnie Russell. His rising notes during the solo make this song extremely memorable and live show worthy. “On The Night My Love Broke Through” is very reminiscent of slower Neil Young songs, which I assume was the point. They’ve still got some of "it." Cold War Kids’ love of retro rock makes me believe at times that computers are completely foreign to them, but the updates (like electronics on “Relief” or writing a love song as a woman in “Every Man I Fall For”) win quite a few creativity points. Being able to mix such different time periods in a 3-minute song is no easy feat.
Sure, there’s no trashcan percussion and not nearly as many sing-a-long moments. These songs may not make me want to play the piano anymore. Willett even takes the “I’m not a singer” singer shtick past the point of cuteness (his lyrics are still a hoot, though). But, umm, hmmm, I think this was supposed to end with a positive point. Help me out here? Sadly, I’m fresh out.
Recommended If You Like: Kings of Leon, Neil Young, what have I done to deserve this?, Figurines, did I walk under a ladder?
I have to agree with this. Robbers and Cowards was not my favorite record, but had a few really good songs, like "We Used to Vacation," which I still play pretty frequently. I didn't find nearly as much to like this time around, though I plan on giving it another try.
I feel the same way about this that I did about Robbers & Cowards. I really wasn't into it at all for the first couple listens, but now, it really is one of my favorite albums; and I don't think Loyalty to Loyalty is any different. Right now I'm kind of on the edge about it, and maybe I'm wrong, but I can really see myself enjoying Loyalty to Loyalty quite a bit in the future.
I kind of feel like I've Seen Enough was left out of this review though. I can't help but play it 2, 3 times through.
The review was...okay...but I disagree with what you think of the album.
Although, thus far, I prefer Robbers & Cowards, this album has many moments that I enjoy. You didn't even mention the single, "Something Is Not Right with Me," in your review.
Also, I love his voice. I saw them perform "Hospital Beds" on a late night talk show and he sounded incredible. He doesn't sound as good on this album for some reason, but I still think he's great.
It's such an obvious rehashing of Robbers and Cowards, that I left it out. I understand why that song was written and why it was the single, and it just feels so forced. The rest of the album doesn't sound like this song, it's odd and thinly veiled. To me, at least.
i agree with this review... overall, this CD isn't anything to boast about. I do however really like the song "I've Seen Enough". I think that is for sure the best song on the album, but you didn't even mention that song...?
I haven't heard the whole album, but I've heard "Something is Not Right With Me". I don't know, it's kind of catchy, but pretty repetitive. I thought about buying it but it slipped my mind. I think that's what happens when I hear Cold War Kids, I think it's pretty good, but not memorable enough so I forget about it the next day. I'm like that with most of Coldplay's music too.