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February 26, 2007 | by  | in Music |
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Cold War Kids – Robbers and Cowards

Robbers and Cowards is the debut album of Californian quartet the Cold War Kids.

While I hadn’t heard of them, the cover looked enticing enough. I assumed it was indie, and they are, but they have a few notable points of difference.

While they may, at times, wear their influences on their sleeves (think Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday and the White Stripes), the combination of lo-fi indie and blues rock puts them in a class of their own when compared with the plethora of guitar-driven indie groups around at the moment.

The Cold War Kids’ formula is a soulful combination of driving, thumping piano, self-indulgent and at times haunting lyrical rambles and stripped-down instrumentation. Lead singer Nathan Willett exhibits nasal, demanding vocals, which, like Alec Ousnworth from Clap Your Hands, you either love or hate. Most songs tell stories, such as the opening track, ‘We Used to Vacation’, which describes the perils of alcoholism on a family trip with great thumping piano and an introspective half-time chorus.

The 6th track, ‘Saint John’ fittingly feels like an old chain-gang chant, repeating the line “Old Saint John on death row, he’s just waiting for a pardon” over and over. ‘Passing the Hat’ is a song about stealing from the church plate, and features guitar and piano melodies playing against each other over an urgent syncopated beat. Dropping the tempo, ‘Robbers’ is an introspective, self-pitying song of isolation. ‘Pregnant’ plays like a soothing lullaby, yet completely contrasts itself against the haunting images created by the lyrics; “deft as a surgeon’s knife carving through bone/pregnant with doubt.”

A solid debut, well worth checking out if blues-rock a la the White Stripes is your style.

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