My opinion of Cold War Kids
has always hovered somewhere around neutral. Since the release of their latest album Hold My Home
on Downtown Records
last week, nothing has changed. The band has consistently walked the line between pop and indie rock, perhaps veering more to the side of pop with every passing album. Hold My Home
, the group's fifth album, follows this pattern precisely, despite some changes in membership. In fact, even with ex-Modest Mouse
guitarist Dann Gallucci, and drummer Joe Plummer, CWK continue to approach the point of no return for shameless radio pop rock.
Most notable are the album's opening three tracks: "All This Could Be Yours," "First," and "Hot Coals." While the they flow seamlessly into one another and are probably the record's strongest songs, they are easily the most pop radio-friendly. Before I fully realized the Modest Mouse membership crossover, I detected their influence in "Hot Coals," which had the summery riffs of a Modest Mouse song but lacked singer Isaac Brock's aggressive and brilliant vocals. CWK's singer, Nathan Willet, has fantastic vocal range, but essentially no balls. He takes his voice through every possible note and octave, but with absolutely no intention of making errors or adding personality. It's like if Adam Levine tried to sing "Float On." Ugh. Still, "All This Could Be Yours" and "First" both work great as pop songs, so long as people stop misidentifying CWK as an indie band. "All This Could Be Yours" sounds like it should be an ad for the CW's fall lineup and if you told me "First" was a Train
song, I'd believe you. These don't have
to be bad qualities, but it seems that way when you call something indie that just isn't.
The latter half of the album is less excusable. Here, the band takes on arena rock, using their best U2
impression on "Nights & Weekends." Willet's vocals, at least, are put good use on "Go Quietly," which is easily the album's most original track. While his musical style is completely different, Willet's voice hits high notes reminiscent of The Antlers
' Peter Silberman. If only the song itself had a little more soul, this could have been a great track. Actually, "if only" can be said of just about every track.
Cold War Kids have had a slightly dwindling fan base since the release of Robbers and Cowards
, their 2006 debut. Even though Hold My Home
is inarguably stronger than the band's work in between, there's still something off. Each song is missing the right energy, overpowered with unnecessary piano or vocals, or lacks identifiable genre. Despite some strong pop songs and talented musicians, Hold My Home
is a perfect representation of the confused musical path CWK has been following for years now. It's neither good nor bad, there's just something very blah about it.
You can get Hold My Home