The problem with revivalist rock in general is that it's oftentimes so niched and limited by the very history it draws from that it paints itself into a corner before eventually fading back into obscurity. The room for innovation just isn't there, and if music in itself is a progressive art form, then it's a nearly impossible task for revivalist bands to stay fresh and relevant. Compounded with the career defining test of making a sophomore album that doesn't suck, and Long Beach, CA's Cold War Kids had quite a daunting task ahead of them. Their second full length offering, Loyalty to Loyalty is, more or less, the exact same brand of Americana soul we've become accustomed to. In this instance, however, more of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing.
As they did on their full length debut Robbers & Cowards, the Cold War Kids attack each song on Loyalty to Loyalty with such tenacity and gospel stomp fervor that it gives off convincing illusions of newness, albeit illusions nonetheless. The first single, "Something is Not Right With Me" is a tambourine induced shout along, seeding itself in the old time antiquity of collect calls and smoking cars. Saloon pianoed tracks like "Every Valley is Not a Lake" breeze along with bluesy guitar riffs and lead singer Nathan Willet's shrilly tenor. However, story driven ballads like "Every Man that I Fall For" trudge along somewhat awkwardly, sounding like a band of 20-somethings doing their best caricatures of rocking chair wisdom. Thankfully, those tracks are kept to a minimum, and overall the album powers through with ferocious effort and sheer passion.
The Cold War Kids, however, go through a lot in trying to isolate themselves outside the status quo as they try to paint themselves as maladjusted old souls living in a modern world. However, these young timers manage to evade the sophomore slump by doing what they do best-- inadvertently blurring out their old world meanderings with the spry firepower of youthful energy. While Loyalty to Loyalty doesn't exactly break any new ground, if anything it vastly succeeds by staying loyal to its own sound. The Cold War Kids not only pass their sophomore exam and live to fight another day, but do so while easily retaining their thrones as the reigning kings of Americana rock & roll. - chris gayomali