Cold War Kids - Robbers And Cowards

Cold War Kids are at their best when they sound loose and dishevelled, rather than large and bombastic.

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Released 5 Feb 2007 | V2 | By John McCarthy | Rating: 2
Cold War Kids - Robbers And Cowards

Surely somewhere out there there's a cool electro-pop duo who've had their name stolen. Cold War Kids is a fantastic name for a band, but anyone buying 'Robbers And Cowards' expecting minimalist Kraftwerk-esque synthesizer antics will be disappointed, as this California quartet deal in American blues rock. Through good old-fashioned touring and good new-fashioned internet blog hype the band have gathered a dedicated following.

Much of the buzz has focused on lead singer Matt Averio's powerful voice. With power comes responsibility, as anyone who's had the tedious experience of sitting through a self-indulgent 'look how many notes I can sing' Jeff Buckley live album will attest. When Averio gives into temptation his booming vocals end up dominating the tracks, sucking the life out of the music around him. On the chorus of 'Passing The Hat' he sounds like he's trying to outdo Mariah Carey at her warbling worst, and on the grating 'Red Wine, Success!' he tries to compensate for the track's lack of a tune by shouting a lot.

Cold War Kids are at their best when they sound loose and dishevelled, rather than large and bombastic. The tense, piano-led 'Hospital Beds' is comparable to The White Stripes at their most human and the feisty. 'Saint John', the tale of a unrepentant murderer on death row, sounds like a band having fun as all manner of percussion sounds propel the song along.

'Hang Me Up To Dry' is the best song on the album by some distance. Averio manages to reign himself in during the verses before going back to default angry mode during the chorus. His vocals combine menacingly with the stuttering bass as he sings the track's 'laundry as metaphor for a failing relationship' lyrics - "Now hang me up to dry, you wrung me out too many times."

Near the end the album really begins to drag. [b'Pregnant' is a lacklustre acoustic guitar ballad, which sounds like it was recorded because they had five minutes to kill in the studio. 'Rubidoux' is blustery nonsense, while 'God, Make Up Your Mind' meanders around in dull jazz-lite circles for three and half minutes before the band realise that people are listening, and spend the remaining minute of the track trying to play their instruments as loudly as possible.

Like the Cold War, 'Robbers And Cowards' goes on far too long which results in everyone losing interest a long time before it eventually ends. The album is a patchy collection of songs, which would have been better served as an EP. Download 'Hang Me Up To Dry', 'Hospital Beds' and 'Saint John' but don't let the last four tracks anywhere near your home.