Where did the happy-go-lucky kids go?

Cold War KidsLoyalty to Loyalty(Downtown)2.5 StarsAfter the success of Cold War Kids’ debut album “Robbers and Cowards” in 2006, their latest album “Loyalty to Loyalty” tries to fend away from the sophomore slump by testing out different musical styles. While intriguing at times, the album seems more like an amalgam of various trials rather than a unified product. In an album with primarily familiar language, the final track name of “Cryptomnesia” stands out. The title alone is exciting; Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘cryptomnesia’ as memories from dreams that are recognized as actual events. A slow ballad faintly reminiscent of the chorus of the 2007 hit song “Superstar” by Lupe Fiasco – both in the musical qualities and the topic – its wispy, elongated vocals have dreamlike qualities. Were the Cold War Kids foreshadowing their success?Unlike most established bands, the Cold War Kids work because they do not have to be held together by a layered sound or lots of instruments filling a void. Instead, they maintain a minimalist, bare bones approach that in turn highlights each instrument justly. This dynamic is only possible because of Willett’s distinctive vocal chords. On the first track, the Kids set the tone on “Against Privacy” with the cheeky statement “We don’t gamble, we don’t do the stock exchange.” Instead, they are more self-centered in focus – especially Mr. Willett, who dominates the album with his primarily smooth, yet oft-coarse voice. For a rock band, the Kids otherwise feature significantly less emphasis on guitar and percussion, and instead focus on the composition of the pieces – an observation that many rock bands could learn from. The combination of a focus on voice, rebelling against stylistic norms and less emphasis on guitar and percussion, comes to a forefront in “Avalanche.” An intriguing exercise in testing the boundaries of a rock song and a great concept idea, the song seemingly mirrors being in an avalanche, and the end result is a combination of cacophonous minor notes. The unusual aforementioned traits of the album reflect the feeling of disconnection through?out the album. While “Mexican Dogs,” the song most reminiscent of “Robbers,” is a rough garage rock song, “Every Man I Fall For” features Willett’s passionate voice and a jazzy guitar/percussion combination. While “Something is Not Right with Me” is a song in the vein of the White Stripes’ crude sound, “Golden Gate Jumpers” could not fit the description of a sentimental, downbeat ballad more. With a piano consistently at the forefront accompanying Willett’s crooning, the latest from the Cold War Kids evokes an image of an over-talented band playing at a piano bar. And unlike the latest from that generic band, Cold War Kids provide an evening full of eclectic and diverse tunes. Oh, and some life advice too – the band tells us “Everything will be explained” in the guitar heavy, falsetto toned “Relief.”