I last experienced Cold War Kids on 2008's Loyalty to Loyalty, a recording that dazzled with its "big-tent revival showmanship." With their new disc, Mine is Yours, there's a shift in tone that proves surprising.
The shift is immediately recognizable and the use of producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, Modest Mouse) has something to do with it. The album is very nearly a complete about-face from their past catalogue. Many indie critics went rightly apeshit over the California rockers' debut, Robbers & Cowards, but this one is proving a tougher sell.
Perhaps it's the instant presence of a healthy dose of studio gloss that's doing it, but Mine is Yours is a slicker recording that leaves the darker elements of Loyalty to Loyalty behind. This is a sign of progress, however, and the Kids wear it well enough.
Vocalist/pianist/guitarist Nathan Willett is still every bit the exhilarating frontman, except there's a little more Bono and Jack White in his step this time 'round. Bassist Matt Maust, guitarist/pianist/vocalist Jonnie Russell, and drummer Matt Aveiro complete the band and bring the levels up a with a broader vision and tighter arrangements.
The title track kicks off the record with Springsteen-esque chord progressions. The song is designed for arena rock of the highest order, punching forward with pulses of synthesizer and guitar licks. Willett stretches the limits of his voice and the song glides through its anthemic paces with just a touch of apprehension, adding a layer of "oh-whoa-oh-ohs" for good measure.
More satisfying chord progressions are in the air with the magical "Finally Begin," a predictable but enjoyable romp. The lyrics are sharp, with fragments like "Weigh the pros but the cons come first" illustrating that the Cold War Kids still know how to turn a phrase with religious conviction.
"Skip the Charades" finds Willett offering up more Bonoisms and it's hard not to get caught up in the fun. "I'm two left feet," he sings. "When I'm home, we tap-danced on broken glass."
"Royal Blue" is the song that I struggled most with. At first I wasn't captured with it, but further listens revealed a smooth path to head down. It is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend's material, but it's slicker and carries a thick slab of bass culled from U2's War album. The influences come together eventually and the song soars after a few repeat listens.
Deride Mine is Yours if you wish. Call it overly glossy or even derivative. It may well be all of those things. But it's also a deeply satisfying, entertaining, fun bit of music that sails in all the right places. These Cold War Kids may not have broken any new ground, but they have turned a page. Needless to say, it's a satisfying jumble of words on the other side.
Check out the video for "Louder than Ever" here: