Cold War Kids’ sophomore CD challenges fan’s loyalty

When a band makes a poor music move, its stigma can hang around for the rest of its career. Sometimes, however, doing just the opposite – creating something totally awesome – can be just as difficult to overcome.

Such is the case for Cold War Kids, a soulful quartet from SoCal that struck gold with its 2006 debut, Robbers and Cowards. On Tuesday, Sept. 23, they released their follow up, Loyalty to Loyalty. After being spoiled for the past two years with Robbers and Cowards’s sweet, sweet music, how would fans react to the new release?

Earlier this year, Cold War Kids released a track from Loyalty to Loyalty, “Something Is Not Right With Me,” for free download on their Web site. Fast-paced and catchy (if a bit repetitive), the song closely followed the style of Robbers and Cowards: a soulful, raucous outburst that yanks at your heartstrings and compels you to belt out the chorus along with vocalist Nathan Willett. Unfortunately, “Something Is Not Right With Me” turned out to be largely unrepresentative of the new album. Instead of powerful, lively songs, Loyalty to Loyalty is mostly composed of slower, sleepier melodies (giving it, if possible, an even more melancholy feel than the band’s debut).

So, overall, it’s not bad music. In fact, Willett holds that Loyalty to Loyalty is musically superior to Robbers and Cowards. And this may be true – from a purely compositional standpoint. In terms of entertainment, however, the sophomore album lacks the energetic, memorable quality that made their debut such a hit. Few tracks stand firmly enough on their own to merit single-dom.

But giving too harsh of a review would be unfair. The album’s first single, “I’ve Seen Enough,” is admittedly epic, the kind of song you want blasting from your car speakers. “Every Valley Is Not a Lake” launches with a toe-tapping piano opener that, combined with lively drums, provides the album with a little diversity of sound., while “Golden Gate Jumpers” exemplifies slow and sleepy.

The moral of the story? Listen to the 30-second samples on iTunes before purchasing the album; they provide accurate previews of what to expect from each track. While “I’ve Seen Enough” and “Something Is Not Right With Me” are necessities for any Cold War Kids fan, the other tracks may or may not all cater to your musical tastes. If you’ve never heard of the Kids before, do start from the beginning. As many wonderful comments as I wish I could make about the new album, Robbers and Cowards really was better.