At their best, California’s Cold War Kids balance overwrought bluster with undeniable and engaging self-belief, evident in the jackhammer riffs of songs like Hang Me Out to Dry or Something Is Not Right with Me. A lot of this is due to Nathan Willett’s impressively jagged tones, which, matched to his tales of down-and-out drinkers, destitute hospital patients and weary poets, communicate a dual sense of romance and ennui that brought about major excitement at their arrival proper with Robbers & Cowards half a decade ago.
Mine Is Yours marks the first time an outside producer has worked with the quartet, the results constituting a decidedly mixed bag. Jacquire King – who’s previously worked with Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse – expands and broadens the band’s sound to the point where shimmering electric guitars cloak the hard edges that made them such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. Meanwhile, Willett’s lyrics take a turn for the insular, focusing on "relationships and commitment" and for the most part forsaking the storytelling nous he developed on previous records.
Which isn’t to say that the record is an unmitigated disaster – just that it lacks the one thing Cold War Kids always had going for them, even when their albums didn’t flow as smooth or efficiently as this one: impact. When the band does ramp up the intensity the results are admirable, such as on the sprawling Out of the Wilderness, which breaks down at its halfway point only to bow out amid a haze of blistering righteousness. But if that song reinforces the band’s strengths, the following Skip the Charades places their weaknesses front and centre: Willett’s lyrics faintly awful, the whole thing hopelessly meek where it should sound impassioned. Elsewhere, though, Louder Than Ever boasts a sweet enough chorus while Royal Blue opens minimal only to expand into a playful, melodic ditty.
Indeed, there’s enough here to suggest Cold War Kids will eventually make good on the promise that haltingly accompanies them. But for now, Mine Is Yours occupies an unremarkable middle ground somewhere between their bluesy, abrasive tendencies and the kind of staidly proficient indie-rock that surely wasn’t part of the plan to begin with.
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