Review : Cold War Kids - Mine is Yours
SputnikmusicAn 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. But what the band and King bring to the table now, however, is a refreshing tendency to keep things focused. It’s less a sacrifice to the gods of modern rock radio and more a bushwhacking of the Kids’ frustrating proclivity to fly off the rails on previous albums. Not that there wasn't something charming about it all on Robbers & Cowards or Loyalty to Loyalty, but Mine Is Yours largely succeeds on keeping the Kids’ songwriting strengths on track.
That songwriting, of course, is what separates Cold War Kids from your Neon Trees or your Saving Abel. From funk-inflected anthems (“Royal Blue”) to U2-esque mammoth rockers with arena aspirations (“Bulldozer”), Cold War Kids always have a outstanding hook on hand. Mine Is Yours never comes off as a chore to listen to, as some of the latter half of their earlier work did. For all their aversion to taking even the slightest of risks, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship that went into a track like “Out of the Wilderness,” where a gently lilting ballad coalesces into one of Willett’s most fiery performances, buoyed by rolling drums and a bridge that frankly explodes. It’s good that the songs here are so strong, because when it comes to Willett’s lyrics, the MOR banality comes on a bit too strong. For a songwriter who was previously lauded for his ability to weave a tale, lyrics like “bulldozer clear a space for us / let’s rebuild this love on what we were” are embarrassing, ham-fisted platitudes. It adds a bit of an asterisk to fantastic tracks like “Broken Open,” where Willett engages in a conversation with a parking meter, but when the songs lift and soar like they more often than not do here, it’s not hard to be a little forgiving. It just makes it even more of a shame when some of the best lyrics on the record in “Sensitive Kid” are sabotaged by a drum machine funk that is as out of place as it is unbecoming of Mine Is Yours’ general direction.
So there’s a give and take at work on Mine Is Yours, one that fans of their earlier work will either love or hate. That essential dichotomy between staying true to your roots and aiming for more widespread success has been the ruin of many bands, but Cold War Kids really don’t give up too much here. Indeed, songs like hit-single-to-be “Louder Than Ever” and the thunderous climax of closer “Flying Upside Down” reveal a band that has always had the songwriting chops to stand out from their peers, one that perhaps just needed a steadying hand to realize it all over the course of an entire album. Something may have been lost in translation – there’s nothing as immediate as “We Used To Vacation” or as heart wrenching as “Hospital Beds,” and Willett truly seems to have thrown aside any artistic compunctions in his quest to write a lyric any ape could relate to. But Mine Is Yours is a damn good rock record through and through, and for a band to sit down and write eleven tunes that showcase the best of their bluesy, anthemic brand of indie with nary a misstep, well, there’s an accomplishment to be praised....full text
SlantmagazineCold 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. Decidedly blander and much less visceral than previous efforts, the album is another step in the band's inexplicable march toward playing it straight and safe within the confines of plush production values. Which ultimately begs the question: When did Cold War Kids become, let alone aspire to be, OneRepublic?
Mine Is Yours is so monotonously average, in fact, that it's hard to believe this is the same group that produced "Hospital Beds," or even the crawling, darkly jazzy highlights of Loyalty to Loyalty, such as "Golden Gate Jumpers" and "Avalanche in B." Gone is the sinister humor and greasy, noise-laden blues influences, replaced by racing but predictable chord progressions ripped straight from the Bruce Springsteen songbook. Willett's voice, normally a wail of both animal-like desperation and beauty, has been largely reined in, relegated to singing the same ill-defined melodies that plagues the band's sagging music. The only track that reignites the flame of Cold War Kids's previous glory is "Bulldozer," which literally pauses three minutes in to quickly reassemble itself into a building, sing-along anthem. Here, Willett is finally back at the top of his game and vocally triumphant, however briefly....full text
BbcAt 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.
Mine Is Yours marks the first time an outside producer has worked with the quartet, the results constituting a decidedly mixed bag. Jacquire King – who’s previously worked with Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse – expands and broadens the band’s sound to the point where shimmering electric guitars cloak the hard edges that made them such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. Meanwhile, Willett’s lyrics take a turn for the insular, focusing on "relationships and commitment" and for the most part forsaking the storytelling nous he developed on previous records.
Which isn’t to say that the record is an unmitigated disaster – just that it lacks the one thing Cold War Kids always had going for them, even when their albums didn’t flow as smooth or efficiently as this one: impact. When the band does ramp up the intensity the results are admirable, such as on the sprawling Out of the Wilderness, which breaks down at its halfway point only to bow out amid a haze of blistering righteousness. But if that song reinforces the band’s strengths, the following Skip the Charades places their weaknesses front and centre: Willett’s lyrics faintly awful, the whole thing hopelessly meek where it should sound impassioned. Elsewhere, though, Louder Than Ever boasts a sweet enough chorus while Royal Blue opens minimal only to expand into a playful, melodic ditty....full text
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