Well, that was quick.
These are some crazy times we are living in, fanboys and girls. Rock Band X can be the Next Big Thing one week, breathlessly hyped by all the bloggers a-bloggin’ in blogland, only to find that the following week, there’s a newer new Next Big Thing to post about. And then it’s, Sorry Rock Band X, hope you enjoyed your moment in the sun; thanks for the memories, fuck y’iz.
Go back and plug in “Cold War Kids” where it says “Rock Band X” above and you’ve got the gist of this review. See, earlier this year, the Kids were the toast of Indieville, thanks to a couple good performances at South by Southwest and some medium-profile gigs with Two Gallants. With all that attention, we could assume that the band’s debut, Robbers & Cowards, would have been widely reviewed upon its release. But an Internet search reveals that the only media outlets to touch the album since it dropped are Billboard, Lost at Sea and Tufts University’s student newspaper, whose dumb pan of the album needn’t concern us any further. As of this writing, Pitchfork hasn’t deigned to rate it yet, and Metacritic has never heard of it. What gives?
Beats me. Really, it does. Perhaps everyone turned on the Kids once they realized that, of the thirteen songs on Robbers & Cowards, all but two have been bouncing around the Internet since the beginning of the calendar year, making this album pretty thoroughly meaningless. Or maybe it’s the fact that the band signed with a major: Indie types sure can be sensitive. But my best guess is that the fast-moving blogosphere has already aimed its appetite for newness at something else entirely, because that’s the way shit works now. (For instance, that band called, I shit you not, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin has been getting some blog love lately, and why not? Seems like a logical progression from the Cold War Kids, don’tcha think?)
Now, I’m hardly a Luddite. I’m pretty heavily invested in the whole e-mail thing, and as someone who types for a living, I’m on a computer nearly all day, every day. (I think running water and flush toilets are pretty fucking neato too.) So I hope I don’t come off as a technology prude as I bemoan the state of indie blogdom circa 2006, in which a new band’s agreed-upon expiration date inevitably coincides with the release of its first record. I mean, the Cold War Kids are a pretty good little band. The players make simple, blues-y, up-tempo guitar-bass-piano-drums rock. Insofar as they have any particular gimmick to speak of (practically a requirement in circa-’06 indie), it’s lead singer Nathan Willet’s huge, warm, faux-Southern accented voice, sounding like Jack White with a creamier center and no rough edges. That voice completely envelops the melodies of “Hang Me Up to Dry,” “Tell Me in the Morning” and the rest of the six rather great songs that kick off this particularly front-loaded album. Subject matter throughout is typical big-theme blues: religion, murder, lessons learned from dead cats in the middle of the road, Old Saint John on death row, driving to Rubidoux in the middle of the night. Every now and then Willet gets off a nice line, my favorite being, “Roman in the kitchen told me true love it waits/ But of all the rules he lives by that’s the one that he hates.”
It’s not all great stuff; the second half of Robbers & Cowards stumbles as the tempos decelerate. But it’s an enjoyable record for sure, and the Cold War Kids are, like I said earlier, pretty good. And apparently they’re also yesterday’s news. My question for the bloggers: Couldn’t we have at least listened to their album before writing these guys off?
***“Hospital Beds” MP3 (from the Up in Rags EP, released in January)