20 Watts


20 Watts Reviews Cold War Kids’ Behave Yourself by 20watts

Cold War Kids should take their own advice with their latest EP Behave Yourself

PREVIEW: VISIT Cold War Kids MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 8/20 Watts

It starts with a simple drum beat and Nathan Willett’s wailing voice coupled with a repeated piano line. Cold War Kids latest “soul/punk” offering Behave Yourself, released digitally towards the end of 2009 and largely overlooked, presents little in the way of soul and naught in the way of punk. Nonetheless, Cold War Kids have managed to slap together a stunning fifteen minutes of drivel in preparation for their third album, out later this year supposedly.

Much of it leads back to Nathan Willett’s voice, always trying to infuse soul and pizazz into lyrics like, “You came out from the country / Wearing momma’s clothes / You were born in the city / Daddy’s dominoes,” and typically coming up short (or, as the case may be, flat). A source of critical contention since their full-length debut, his wannabe-Jack-White drawl still provides as little satisfaction today as it did four years ago.

Not all of Cold War Kids’ problems can be blamed on their frontman though. Among the many issues Behave Yourself tackles, conservative song structure is the most prominent. Lead track “Audience of One” is piano rock at its most gratingly repetitive, less Cat Stevens and more Billy Joel. “Sermons,” an R&B disaster, soaked to the bone with religious pleading and slow instrumentation that might evoke an ominous atmosphere were it not for Willett’s overbearing words and Jonnie Russell’s heavy-handed crooning. They even ape The Beatles’ “Her Majesty” with the abruptly-ending bonus track “Baby Boy.”

If there exists one bearable song on this short record it would likely be “Santa Ana Winds.” While not strong enough to salvage the EP, it relegates Willett’s voice to the background more than the others on the record, instead allowing for crescendoing swells of percussion and crisp guitar and bass lines. Moreover Cold War Kids know not to outstay their welcome on it, dropping out at a lean 2:32.

Why are EPs released? Are they outlets for musicians to grow artistically? Can they represent more than the throwaway B-sides from an album of material? Years from now, when the tastemakers of the future visit their vintage record stores to compile some of the aughts’ great indie rock EPs – Fall Be Kind, Lon Gisland, Sun Giant, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, Friend and others — a tattered compact disc copy of Behave Yourself will undoubtedly lie at the bottom of the bin, forgotten and sold at a tenth of its original price.

– Eric Vilas-Boas



The Eventual Mediocrity of Brilliant Debut Artists by cweeks88

With bands like Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys making mediocre follow-up albums, will the same happen to Fleet Foxes?

Vampire Weekend just came out with a new single “Cousins” — and what a disappointing pile of shit! You’d figure that after making their debut album with so many great tunes, they’d be bound to make a more brilliant follow-up album. Unfortunately, with “Cousins” it sounds like the sun just rose on a Monday morning for this skeleton crew. To be fair, Vampire Weekend are not the only band that seem to be facing this problem. Throughout the decade a whole lot of new Indie bands with brilliant debut albums have been popping up—where they have barely been able to create a worthy-enough follow up.

The list goes on and on with bands and artists that got their big break this decade on both sides of the pond. In Britain, bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys each released debut albums that were universally adored by critics and new fans alike: Up The Bracket and Whatever People Say I Am, That Is What I Am Not—the latter of which is currently the UK’s fastest-selling debut album (note:  Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle recently topped this accolade with her I Dreamed a Dream album). Nevertheless, these two bands–led by the apparent songwriting genius’ Pete Doherty and Alex Turner – never seem to have been able to top their debuts with their later works. Continue reading




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