Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
"I don't own the sun, I don't own the moon," cries Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willett. It sounds like false modesty. On their third album, the Cali quartet swing for the fences — it's as if CWK, once a sharp band with retro leanings, have been gorging on Springsteen and Kings of Leon. (KOL producer Jacquire King oversees Mine Is Yours.) Willett has a wind-turbine voice, and on "Bulldozer," his bandmates whip up a mighty pomp-rock racket.
Review Summary: Kids grow up. An eternal question in the indie industry – keep doggedly pursuing your artistic vision, maybe one defined by jagged bursts of post-punk and a singer whose just as likely to veer into screeching wails as he is a soulful hum, or get your *** together and make something perhaps more palatable for your average rock listener? It’s not too hard to see on what side Mine Is Yours falls – producer Jacquire King, whose behind-the-boards work catapulted Kings of Leon from Southern rock also-rans to multi-platinum lords of radio, is on hand, and singer Nathan Willett is content to focus on “love and relationships” in his lyrical matter. Top 40 listeners have something against hearing about family-ruining alcoholics, I guess.
When I sat down to listen to Mine Is Yours, the latest efforts from Cold War Kids, my thoughts on what I had set myself up for were a little agnostic. As their first album Robbers and Cowards had received critical acclaim and hadn’t left my head phones or speakers for the best part of six months, playing on repeat ‘til the early hours of the morning and making my heavily mundane bus journeys in the mornings all the more enjoyable, rather than just counting how many flakes of dandruff were on the girl’s jacket in front of me. It was the offbeat piano melodies, Nathan Willet’s screeching and sometimes whiny vocals about hanging him up to dry, and the implicit rawness which emanated from Robbers and Cowards which ruffled my feathers.
Some major retooling took place in Cold War Kids' world in the 12 months between the Behave Yourself EP and their third album, Mine Is Yours. Their last full-length, Loyalty to Loyalty, played like an unflattering caricature, all dragging tempos, grating vocals, and overdone attempts at “bluesiness.” Behave Yourself found the band on better behavior, with tighter songwriting and a sleeker approach, but just how much slicker Cold War Kids sound on Mine Is Yours is still kind of a shock. Where they used to sound like they wanted to play church basements and speakeasies, here they sound like they’re gearing up for stadiums à la Kings of Leon.
Cold War Kids emerged towards the end of the garage-rock revival at the beginning of the last decade. When their first album, Robbers & Cowards, came out in 2006, the Strokes had collapsed under the weight of First Impressions of Earth, the White Stripes had already taken a bewildering left turn away from guitar rock with Get Behind Me Satan. In the midst of this changing scene, the single “Hang Me Up to Dry”, suggested that Cold War Kids might have some staying power.
Cold War Kids’s Loyalty to Loyalty wasn’t so much a sophomore slump as it was a sophomore plateau, weakly sustaining the unhinged pop sound of Robbers & Cowards without expanding it beyond its various competing qualities—namely, belligerence, coarse emotion, and a touch of morose pining. Those characteristics—combined with Nathan Willett’s plaintive, pained vocals—were once the defining features of the group’s sound, which they delivered in spades on their 2007 single “Hospital Beds. ” Nothing the band has produced since has replicated such raw energy or artful desperation, and Mine Is Yours is no exception.
Cold War Kids have made a name for themselves crafting the kind of faceless, nondescript brand of blues- and soul-injected indie rock that is working well for many of their bettors. After the success of their ubiquitous first big single "Hang Me Up to Dry" five years ago, it wasn't long before they had been lumped in with indie mainstays like the Black Keys. Perhaps buoyed by Black Keys' deserved success, Mine Is Yours finds Cold War Kids aiming for a decidedly more arena-friendly style, going so far as to enlist the help of Jacquire King, the producer who helped push fellow cheese-merchants Kings of Leon in a similar direction over the course of their previous two breakthrough records.
[a]Cold War Kids[/a]’ 2006 debut [b]‘Robbers And Cowards’[/b] may have been a perfectly inoffensive collection of palatable (albeit preachy) indie-rock, but Lord have mercy on them – here is an album so screamingly MOR it makes the bald dude from [a]The Fray[/a] look like [a]Pete Doherty[/a]. [b]‘Finally Begin’[/b], [b]‘Skip The Charades’[/b] and [b]‘Out Of The Wilderness’[/b] are all so generic, it’s as though they clicked the ‘arena rock’ demo on GarageBand and buggered off for of tea. Any brief spates of individuality, such as the jangle-pop of [b]‘Broken Opportunities’[/b], are soon asphyxiated in lubricious studio slime.
Nearly half a decade ago, Long Beach foursome Cold War Kids released their debut, Robbers and Cowards. Nathan Willett’s raw voice tested our patience, the storytelling sometimes seemed preachy, and the instrumentation was a little abrasive. It was an acquired taste, but once fully realized, it was wonderful. With anthemic tunes like “We Used to Vacation” and haunting burners like “Hospital Beds”, Robbers and Cowards felt edgy, rich, and soulful, a departure from an everyday passive listening experience.
Cold War Kids’ third full-length effort Mine Is Yours comes packaged with a John Cassavetes quote about a volatile marriage, setting up the album’s thematic thread. Whereas their previous releases (2006’s Robbers & Cowards and 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty) took on subjects from suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge to being a prisoner on death row, broken relationships and their effects are the focus on this album. It’s a move that represents aging, but doesn’t necessarily mean progress.
Californian quartet’s third LP is a decidedly mixed bag. James Skinner 2011 At their best, California’s Cold War Kids balance overwrought bluster with undeniable and engaging self-belief, evident in the jackhammer riffs of songs like Hang Me Out to Dry or Something Is Not Right with Me. A lot of this is due to Nathan Willett’s impressively jagged tones, which, matched to his tales of down-and-out drinkers, destitute hospital patients and weary poets, communicate a dual sense of romance and ennui that brought about major excitement at their arrival proper with Robbers & Cowards half a decade ago.