For what was once an indie rock group, Cold War Kids now has a very commercial sound. And that's understandable because the band currently records for one of the biggest companies around, Universal Music Group, as a part of their Interscope label. They've toured with Death Cab for Cutie and, on this CD, their third, worked with producer Jacquire King. King has helped to make successes of Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon, to whom the Kids bear more than a passing sonic resemblance.
Sounding slicker in the years since they released their first EPs is probably inevitable, but that's not necessarily a failing. There's always a market for well played, passionately sung, cleverly written songs with catchy melodic hooks. And these things "Mine Is Yours" has in spades. This music is less idiosyncratic and more mainstream than on previous releases, but it's an evolution rather than a complete change of pace. These are clearly the same fellows -- they've just matured and gotten more professional.
The title track sets the pace for the entire album. Like many of the songs on the CD, it's an anthemic blending of rock and Americana, starting quietly and building to a climax on the strength of insistent percussion, layers of guitars, and the ringing vocals of front man Nathan Willett.
The second track is the lead single, "Louder Than Ever," but it's the quirky third cut, "Royal Blue," that grabs me. It has an irresistible bass-driven beat and just as much radio-friendly potential as "Louder." The fourth song, "Finally Begin," is also enjoyable but more conventional, while the next two, "Out of the Wilderness" and "Skip the Charades," are among the strongest material on the album, adding emotional lyrics and haunting harmonies to the Kids' signature sound.
The song "Sensitive Kid" is not nearly as precious as its title suggests, with its jagged, pounding, boom-box rhythms and a resentful vocal reminding us that "sensitive kids start acting like a grown up." The eighth cut, "Bulldozer," starts tentatively and takes the longest of any on the album to swell to its U2-like climax -- but what a finish! Next is "Broken Open," which unfortunately sounds too much like other tracks on the album; nothing sets it apart or makes it particularly memorable for me. That's not to say it's a bad song; most pop groups would kill for anything half as resonant.
The CD winds up with "Cold Toes on the Cold Floor" and "Flying Upside Down," the former eccentric in both rhythm and subject matter, the latter growing from a pensive intro to a thrashing, wailing, wall-of-sound peak. The Kids throw the kitchen sink into this one, and it shows.
If you enjoy their associated groups and previous recordings, you'll find the Cold War Kids' newest release worthwhile. It's really grown on me. Considering the highs they reach, I can understand why it's hard to maintain the same levels of creativity or musical momentum throughout the full length of the album.