As far as hook-barbed songs go, Loyalty to Loyalty’s leadoff single, “Something Is Not Right with Me,” cuts likes razor wire with its sheer, bludgeoning infectiousness. As far as second albums go, Loyalty to Loyalty isn’t nearly as immediate as its unrepresentative single — yet it’s not exactly a post-Robbers & Cowards misstep, either.
The members of Cold War Kids have deepened their sound rather than expanding it. Lead single notwithstanding, Loyalty finds the band more interested in exploring the atmosphere and mood of their music rather than ridiculously trying to hone it to the hypermelodic nosebleed heights that any attempt to top “Hang Me Up to Dry” would require.
Eschewing muscular rock for skeletal blues, Nathan Willett’s cracked-throat tales of shadowy cinemascope are married to dusk-lit and dusty mirages that meld taut post-punk to loose-woven Americana. The hazy, sand-blurred results — songs like the ringing, minimalist bounce of “Mexican Dogs” or the stark guitar spirals of the popchimed “Dreams Old Men Dream” — don’t quite overwhelm the record that preceded them but are deserving of the hype they inherited.
It might not have been the most sales-savvy approach, but it very well may be the right one for the band. The Kids are growing up, and there’s nothing wrong with that.