Words by Bryan Crawford
Los Angeles, CA — After an underwhelming last album [Loyalty to Loyalty], Cold War Kids’ once burgeoning fan base has diminished to a few folks – probably bloggers – who only want to hear what they originally fell in love with: the unhinged emotion with which young Nathan Willet screams and seconds later croons his morose anecdotes; the rambling band that helps it all make sense. That crowd lined up outside Amoeba Records in Hollywood last Tuesday night, hoping the Cold War Kids might make them fall in love all over again.
Now I’m certainly not the first person to explain that the Cold War Kids aren’t kids. They’re grown ass men, and both on their records and in real life it seems as though they came out the womb that way. Grizzled, I suppose handsome, and still somehow seemingly hapless, Nathan Willet and his ironically clad J. crew wander on the small stage at Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd – an anomaly in its own right – and greet the group who’ve waited for hours outside to see this special, albeit free show.
Instant anthem “Louder than Ever” starts things off. Generic lyrics aside, we all want the band to deliver, and the half-time chorus 30 seconds in seems to do it.
They roll right into “Audience,” another anthemic, older single. Jonnie Russell’s hollow body Gibson rings famously.
“Skip the Charades” – one of the stronger tracks on the new album is followed by “Royal Blue” – same formula, different flourish.
“Cold Toes on the Cold Floor” comes next. The first dark tune of the set stands starkly apart from “Royal Blue” et al, and almost seems out of place. “Finally Begin”, “Sensitive Kid” and “Bulldozin” all came next, but these whitewashed rock numbers are met with lukewarm reactions by a crowd who is left wondering where their beloved soul singing/screaming has gone. At this point in the show I had begun to write “Kings of Le” —when Willet came on the mic. He briefly explained how they had always wanted to do an Amoeba show, how they really loved everyone sticking with them through the years, and that they only had time for one more song.
The chaos that “We Used To Vacation” begins with is unlike any other. Willet plinks – nope – pounds on the piano as his diatribe starts with “I kissed the kids at noon, then stumbled out the room…” and I almost want to envision Willet as the drunken, damaged dad. The band’s sound grows and so grows the crowd’s enthusiasm; it’s as if this is the only tune they really wanted to play – it’s certainly what the crowd wants to hear. Erratic stabs come from Jonnie’s hollow body in the form of the solo. A dissonant Amoeba-wide singalong starts, then there’s a smattering of guitar and bass picks and it’s over.
Three years ago, Loyalty to Loyalty disappointed many. Since then, CWK took some time (a winter in Nashville with Jacquire King) and returned with What’s Mine is Yours. Defined by the band themselves as a very different sounding record, they are using this opportunity to give EVERYONE a first listen…again. I get it; I won’t presume to know their motivations. I do know however, that I liked what I heard first when I first heard it. I don’t need another first listen. Short of calling this selling out, one could define it as a departure from their original sound; a new direction, a simpler, more streamlined sound. And there’s certainly merit to that. One thing’s for certain, “it’s a god given fact that you can’t go back.”
TheWaster.com | Los Angeles