FEATURE Cold War Kids
Image Credit: Downtown Records 2011

MUSIC REVIEW: Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours…

by Kathryn Sesser
For the past two mornings I have awoken with Mine is Yours, the title track off Cold War Kids’ latest album, playing on my brain radio. 
Not a big deal, unless you consider what it took to get it into the rotation. After six listens – yes, count them, six – something off Mine is Yours finally seeped into my brain.

There has been talk of the Joshua Tree-esque intro to Mine is Yours, and the melodic bass drumming was the high-point of the album for me. Thirty seconds in, and it’s all downhill from there. The band comes off as more-than-eager to please, and the album itself sounds like the members’ only goal was music for the masses. It’s as if Cold War Kids took tracks from Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons and Yeasayer’s latest albums, put them in a blender, poured it out and called it art.

Working with producer Jacquire King, one would think the band would want to take more cues from King’s earlier work with Tom Wait’s (“Mule Variations"), but instead seemingly picked up Leon scraps. (King’s won a Grammy for Record of the Year for 2010’s “Use Somebody.”)

Rudimentary lyrics add the final nail in Cold War Kids’ coffin with this album. “I know you were born with a heart of gold, but I want a purple heart that can not be sold,” from “Sensitive Kid,” was a roll-your-eyes moment for me. “It feels so strange to feel good and when I was the fire, you were wood. So when I was petrified, you understood,” from “Broken Open” surely was another. The rhyming lyrics come across more as Songwriting 101 than earnest, heartfelt messages of hope or even ones of despair.

“I was just watching the Wilco documentary again and I think that in many ways Wilco is to country/Americana as Cold War Kids is to soul/punk,” lead singer Nathan Willett told Filter magazine last year before recording Mine is Yours. “We are taking what we do to the next level on this record.”

Obviously Cold War Kids couldn’t stick to their master plan to take its soul/punk sound up a notch.

What they have left us with is yet another Kings of Leon/Mumford & Sons/The Black Keys hybrid that won’t stand the test of time. If Cold War Kids’ mindset when making this album was set on the Top 40, you could say they succeeded ... For better or worse.

But if you want to believe Willett’s earlier words of taking their sound to the next level, this album could only be classified as a failure. And I will cringe any time they come on my brain radio.

10 Things You May Not Know About the Cold War Kids

With the release of its long-awaited third album this week, Cold War Kids are looking to gain a whole new legion of fans. With a sound different from its earlier albums, Cold War Kids may lose some of its fanbase as well. Here are 10 things you may want to know about the band before you decide whether or not to jump on the bandwagon.

Cold War Kids - Downtown Records
Cold War Kids, "Mine Is Yours" album cover. Photo credit: Downtown Records, 2011

1. Formed in California in 2004, Cold War Kids is comprised of Nathan Willett (vocals, piano, guitar), Jonnie Russell (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Matt Maust (bass guitar), and Matt Aveiro (drums, percussion). The band released its first recorded music, an EP, “Mulberry Street,” in 2005.

2. In the seven years the band has been together, it has released seven official EPs, the latest being January’s “Behave Yourself.” In 2007, the band released “Live From SoHo” as an iTunes-exclusive release as well. Music from the EPs have also been used on two of the band’s three full-length albums, “Robbers and Cowards” and “Loyalty to Loyalty.”

3. “Hang Me Up To Dry,” is the song Cold War Kids are best known for. Originally recorded in January 2006, the track opened the band’s third EP, “Up in Rags.” The song would become the band’s second track off of its first full-length album, “Robbers and Cowards.” “Hang Me Up to Dry” was released as a single twice in 2007. First in January, where it failed to make any impact on the U.S. charts, and again in July that same year to the same results.

4. In 2009, the band spent a good part of the spring touring in support of Death Cab for Cutie. Joining the groups for their jaunt around the United States was opening act Ra Ra Riot.

5. For 2011’s “Mine is Yours,” the band worked with producer Jacquire King. King has previously worked with such artists as Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Clinic and Mike Doughty. Despite working on other artist’s albums since the late ‘90s, King won his first Grammy award only last year, for Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”

6. “Mine is Yours” is Cold War Kids’ most intimate album to date, lead singer/songwriter Willett has said. “These are portraits of relationships and commitment — what is holding these things together and what does it all mean?” the singer says. “A lot has happened in the last two years — long tours, marriage, relationships, people going different directions. I felt the need to be more personal, to show the many sides of me.”

7. The Cold War Kids will kick off their 2011 tour on March 3 at Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., and will travel across the country from Radio City Music Hall in New York, N.Y. to Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif., for a 24-date tour. The band is touring in support of “Mine is Yours” and will find themselves playing in Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Nashville, Atlanta and other North American cities.

8. Cold War Kids are already taking to the Internet to brush off bad reviews of “Mine is Yours.” A message on Twitter following early postings on the album showed plans to persevere. “We don’t believe in love@first sight and we don’t believe you can say much about this album till you live with it. Reviews are such a bore,” was posted mere hours before the album was officially released.

9. As of January 25, the day of the album release, Cold War Kids have 141,517 (and counting) followers on Facebook. (But I only have one friend that has “liked” the band.)

10. You can buy all of Cold War Kids music on their official website ... Including “Mine is Yours” which is available on vinyl.

  • Kathryn Sesser has been a designer with The Times of Northwest Indiana for nearly five years, but a writer all her life. A Mississippi girl, this resident of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood is a Southerner through and through: Good food, good conversation and good music drive the soul. When not dreaming of grits, this lyrical junkie can be found wandering the streets of Chicago or searching for gems on vinyl. If the sun is out – and it’s above freezing – find her at Montrose beach with her dog, Huxley.