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September 29, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty

The sobering tones of Cold War Kids (CWKs) second full-length release Loyalty to Loyalty has received a sound lashing from trendster music sites (yes, yes Pitchfork etc.). Admittedly, this is in part justified as CWKs have followed an astonishing debut (Robbers and Cowards) with a less endearing and accessible album, which makes the listener work harder to enjoy it.

Loyalty to Loyalty is not as much of a complete package as their debut, and yes, at times Willetts vocals are too strained and yes, in ‘Avalanche in B’ he seems to make up the melody as he goes along. The first half of the record features frantic tracks of a heart-pumping pace, in the manner of a spastic ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’. This is followed by a 180-turn into a second half of mostly slow, drunken blues, which in the wake of the blood-thirsty openers seem to drag horribly. Such quirks are abrasive on first listen, but after the second or third it becomes easy to look past such trifles and investigate into whether Loyalty to Loyalty delivers quality, substantial music.

The conclusion: yes, it most certainly does. The mentioned annoyances are in truth normal teething problems of a maturing act. The lyrical content is still blatantly political, and reflective of American society although perhaps not as acute as it could be. The dominant music elements come from the percussion section: where the strutting, chirpy guitar parts and syncopated gospel vocals once dominated on Robbers and Cowards, the drums and rhythm now reign. With patience, Loyalty to Loyalty quickly gains the endearing charisma of its predecessor and moulds to the musical palette. ‘I’ve Seen Enough’, ‘Every Valley Is Not A Lake’, and first single ‘Something Is Not Right With Me’ are arguably the finest blues-rock (with wonderful touches of soul) the band has yet produced and act as the hooks of the record to bait and hold the listener.

After the initial buzz of the bam-bam-bam-bam outbreak of exhilarating tracks from ‘Mexican Dogs’ to ‘Welcome to the Occupation’ drunken disorientation sinks in. ‘Golden Gate Jumpers’ slouches over a bar in North Beach, San Francisco and recites miserable but enticing tales of suicide in a classic cabaret fashion, with those moments of whimsical genius followed by the cringe-worthy antics of the premature-drunk at the party. Cabaret and ragtime feature heavily on the record, as CWKs undress their sound to the near naked roots of their influences.

Held to the audacious criteria of what is supposedly ‘excellence’ in contemporary alternative music, Loyalty to Loyalty is a frustrating experience. But, saying ‘fuck you’ to music industry standards and analysing the record on merits of musicianship and meaning, this is a brilliant album. If you’re after a replica of Robbers & Cowards then prepare for brutal disappointment. Loyalty to Loyalty is an important step towards maturity for Cold War Kids and for those who open themselves to such endeavours, this album will become even more meaningful and endearing than their debut.

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