Album Reviews: Robbers & Cowards by Cold War KidsThe other day, as I was listening to Robbers & Cowards, it occurred to me that I would have been a completely different music fan without the Internet. Sure, I was still a fanatic even when I just listened to the K-Rock, watched MTV and MuchMusic, and read Rolling Stone. I liked the one semi-obscure band all the medias championed and had a ton of CDs arrive by mail from BMG music service before downloading was all the rage. But when I think about all the bands I missed that I would have liked – Pavement, Sunny Day Real Estate, Built to Spill – I am sure I definitely would have missed out on the Cold War Kids.
It's not that Robbers & Cowards is an easy album to let go once you've heard it. Its angular garage sounds and frontman Nathan Willet's oscillating vocals are intriguing enough to warrant many a repeat listen. Opener "We Used to Vacation" pits morality against booze over the loud-soft garage rock that Nirvana mainstreamed. "Hospital Beds" crescendos from a piano ballad into thumping drums and whining guitars. My personal favorite, "Tell Me in the Morning" finds the guitar licks paralleling Willet's vocal path about putting off dealing with life. All throughout these songs, the Cold War Kid's brilliance show in bass lines that propel songs along, infectious vocal bridges and some of the more crafty lyrics this year.
I may never have gotten my hands on this album back in the day. The bloggers love Cold War Kids now, but the magazines still don't give them too much press. There isn't a radio "hit" to be found. Even with its abundance of standout moments, the "rawk" is still slightly too raw to be sold to the mainstream. Robbers & Cowards, with all its intricacies, falters in random spots, leaving portions of songs, and sections of the album, slightly grating, repetitive, or boring.
Even with their missteps, I still like what I've heard of these Cold War Kids. Robbers & Cowards is an ambitious production, but this is one example where the separate pieces are more engaging alone. So I'm glad there is the blog phenomenon and I caught their debut, even if they still have a way to go as artists. A consistent album is just outside their reach. This is a band best listened to in small doses, one song at a time. Thankfully I can do that on my iPod these days. - David Pessah, kNewIt06
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