Cold War kids fight good taste

Cold War Kids ALBUM: Loyalty to Loyalty LABEL: Downtown Records The thing about mediocre music is that itâÄôs not exactly bad. ItâÄôs like eating generic tomato soup and having someone ask you, âÄúHowâÄôs that soup?âÄù What are you supposed to say? How does one critique mediocrity? ThatâÄôs the problem with the Cold War Kids âÄô new release. It is the musical equivalent of eating raw iceberg lettuce. Want dressing? Too bad. Croutons? Not a chance. Cold War KidâÄôs last album, âÄúRobbers and Cowards,âÄù achieved some popular success, mostly fueled by their crowd-pleasing anthems. The track âÄúHang Me Up to Dry,âÄù became a pop hit blared on commercials and movie trailers. Their 2007 song âÄúWe Used to VacationâÄù which, without lead-singer Nathan WilletâÄôs wilting voice could sound like a generic Dave MatthewâÄôs Band tune, does not have an equivalent on âÄúLoyalty to Loyalty.âÄù The current release doesnâÄôt seem to have any tracks with enough fuel to fly with the popular kids. As a whole, their sophomore collection lacks the catchiness that their first disc pushed. On âÄúLoyalty,âÄù WilletâÄôs vocals are puffed-up and darn-near impossible to ignore. ItâÄôs too bad that his singing is more grating than good. At times he milks his chords, convinced that he can make every drop drip. Because of his bravado, the rest of the band is forced to take a backseat. The guitars and percussion are present, sure, but WilletâÄôs shaky yodeling defines the band. The best example of this is in the steamy âÄúMexican Dogs ,âÄù where Willet hoarsely lets loose lyrics like a liquored-up hobo on karaoke night. âÄúHowâÄôd he get on the stage?âÄù is a well-warranted reaction. But it gets worse before it gets better; the chant titled âÄúSomething Is Not Right with MeâÄù is aptly named. ItâÄôs also one of the catchiest songs on the album. ItâÄôs a confounding example of horrible-sounding music that somehow resonates with your inner pulse. But it only works once you turn off your brain. And itâÄôs too bad, because WilletâÄôs warbling could be enjoyable in the right context. But it seems that this album, with the exception of an almost Rufus Wainwright -like performance in âÄúGolden Gate Jumpers,âÄù insists on using WilletâÄôs pipes like an inflatable safety device. Inflated? Yes. Safe? Not at all. The thudding song âÄúReliefâÄù is an exception to the discâÄôs mediocrity. Here, in just a glimpse, Willet shows off his range, and to interesting effect. HeâÄôs still center stage and over the top, but his look-at-me posture is actually worth taking a second glance at. âÄúAgainst PrivacyâÄù is a slow-paced angst fest. And because it opens the record, it muddies the water, turning each following song a putrid hue. âÄúDreams Old Men DreamâÄù has perhaps some of the best examples of how poems written in 11th grade creative writing class have no place in music. âÄúThought I was built like a buildingâÄôs built/ Iron, concrete and stone/ I realize IâÄôm just a hack actor/ Finished playing my role,âÄù squeaks Willet. The albumâÄôs lyrics are not only generic and tawdry, they are often bent on didactic political/social rebukes âÄî but never to the point where any cohesive statement is made. Willet would sound better spitting out word-associations that twang along with the music than performing the stuff theyâÄôve penned. Because of past success, itâÄôs likely that Cold War Kids will continue to fill eardrums everywhere. But itâÄôs a shame. âÄúLoyalty to LoyaltyâÄù is an over-inflated shout parade. But unlike most parades, this one does not come with the enjoyment of free candy.