Cold War Kids: “Loyalty to Loyalty”
When initially listening to the Cold War Kids, it’s difficult to describe the band without name-dropping those who came before them. Its debut “Robbers & Cowards” brought natural comparisons with indie heavyweights such as The French Kicks and The Walkmen. That’s because those New Yorkers seemingly perfected the sound already. Rather than smoothing out its transitions, the Kids’ jerky jumps had many fans scratching their heads. While this group showed much promise on its debut, the guys were amateurs.
You’re given one record to show your potential, and then it’s all results after that. So with the sophomore album “Loyalty to Loyalty,” the band has to not only expand its sound but also find its own identity. The record starts off with “Against Privacy,” a limited and meandering track, while “Mexican Dogs” is a beautiful and bouncy follow-up. However, the next track gives the same erratic turns that held back many songs on the band’s debut. At this point, this record seems like more of the same old sparse quality.
But starting with a bass line in “Something is Not Right With Me” that could practically be lifted from LCD Soundsystem’s “Tribulations,” the band makes a shift to consistency. This track rocks out without making any irritating detours. “Welcome to the Occupation” comes next, and is a highlight in this band’s repertoire. Lead vocalist Nathan Willett finds a brilliant balance that had escaped him previously and maintains it for the rest of the album. “Golden Gate Jumpers” unravels as tragically as its mournful lyrics, but it is with “Avalanche B” that Willett’s voice is completely utilized. In this hopeless tale of being stuck in an avalanche, he sullenly pleads, “Reach up cold hits your hands / Snow packs like cement you can’t stand / Remain calm while rescue makes plans.” “I’ve Seen Enough” is an uplifting battle cry, perfectly complimenting the helplessness of the previous song.
After that wonderful string of songs, “Every Man I Fall For” wanders along and seems mediocre in comparison. “Dreams Old Men Dream” picks up with graceful layered guitars until the chorus breaks with a melodious rush. The next track boasts some more solid vocals, but doesn’t quite hit the spot, and “Relief” follows with an entertaining dirty bassline carrying it. Finally, “Cryptomnesia” ends the record majestically with a mellow buildup hitting the perfect climax, only to ease you back down afterwards.
With “Loyalty to Loyalty,” the Cold War Kids have taken a substantial leap forward. After a couple of beginning lumps, the band hits its stride and rarely lets go. Sure, Willett still sporadically sounds like a preacher with all his mythical symbolism, but his songwriting has improved. The musical hiccups have declined despite the occasional drag that hits. But most importantly, this Fullerton bunch found its sound and ran with it. Now with some consistency, the band can really perfect itself on its third record. That’s the only one that matters anyways.