The Lancer Link
Artist Review...: Cold War KidsMonday, April 07, 2008 By Kyle T.
Mainstream radio stations these days – the FM stations like 102.5, 93.3 and 94.5, depending on your taste in music – have become very selective in determining which songs are broadcast. It is almost assured that if you listen to a single radio station for an entire day, you would hear the same song at least four times. I've been on long trips before where I have heard the same song twice in one sitting. Sure, these may be popular songs, but FM radio is putting a stranglehold on new artists from emerging and making it big. When I got XM radio for Christmas this past year, I was blown away by the variety of songs that they play. Since I've gotten it, I've probably been introduced to fifteen or twenty artists that I would never have even heard of with FM radio, but now rank among my favorites. One of those bands is the Cold War Kids. This indie-rock/blues-rock group from Fullerton, CA, has released two full-length albums since their conception in 2004: Up in rags/with our wallets full in 2005 and Robbers and Cowards in late 2006. Intrigued by one of the singles from the band I heard on the radio, “We used to vacation,” I went out and bought Robbers and Cowards – the album which features the song – and I was immediately enthralled by their musical style. Lead vocalist Nathan Willet's voice is reminiscent of another popular indie-rock band vocalist: Jack White of the White Stripes. Though neither of them have the smoothest voices around, their singing styles suit their bands. The rhythm section of the Cold War Kids creates catchy beats and riffs with an unorthodox styling. The band utilizes both piano and guitar on many of the songs, along with creative drumming, to create a unique sound. The band hits hard with the two first songs on the album, with their two most popular hits: “We used to vacation” and “Hang me up to dry” at the first and second spots. “We used to vacation” starts off with a catchy stop-and-go piano line and drum beat with a bit of guitar mixed in before Willet comes in with the vocals, which detail the story of a man's fight to overcome alcoholism. The chorus switches over to a more steady beat – a transition that feels weird at first, but seems more right as the song progresses. The tempo seems to slow and Willet sings how he “promised to my wife and children/I'd never touch another drink as long as I live/but even then it sounds so soothing,” showing the troubles the individual has with fully absolving himself of the habit. “Hang me up to dry” is the band's other popular song on the album. It is actually a re-done mix from the band's previous album. It starts out with a bass guitar and lead guitar playing a riff with octave notes with heavy amounts of echo on both guitars. Willet adds his unique vocals to the track after about ten seconds, singing of a girl leading a guy on in a relationship and using him, evidenced by the lyrics in the chorus “hang me up to dry/you wrung me out too, too, too many times.” Though lacking originality musically, as the main riff repeats itself throughout the entire song with just a few variances in the post-choruses, the riff is so catchy that it makes up for it. The rest of the album has a similar feel to it as the first two songs, with a wide variety of diverse songs. Overall, it earns an 8.5 out of ten. The Cold War Kids are definitely a band to check out if you are in need of some non-mainstream music.