Monitor Down

The music blog that doesn’t want to hear itself

My Confused Stance on the Cold War Kids

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cold war kidsThe human brain is weird, and sometimes things just don’t add up. Why, for example, can somebody like peanut butter but hate peanuts? Or try to squeeze through the last quarter-second of a yellow light, but get annoyed when other people do it? It baffles.

And, as you may have gleamed from the title, this baffledom extends to none other than the Cold War Kids. I’ve had several run-ins with this OC band (like, as in their music) since they began their steady ascent to popularity a few years ago, and despite a damning heap of evidence suggesting I should like them (a lot), it just seems to be another one of those things, and I have no idea why.

To demonstrate the depth of this conundrum (which I’m sure is shattering your world as you read this), here is a list of everything the Cold War Kids have going for them, in my modest opinion:

1. Nathan Willett’s voice is unique, loud and completely amazing.

2. Their sense of melody is pretty much genius.

3. Their choices in instrumentation aren’t obvious, and provide just what each song needs.

4. The guitar and drum sounds they create are deep, resonant and rich.

5. Lyrically they’re not shallow, cheesy, or pretentious.

6. Their vibe can become really, really intense.

7. They’re called the Cold War Kids — awesome.

8. They named their first EP after the restaurant the guitarist lived above — also awesome.

9. They remind me somewhat of other bands I like (The Walkmen, Spoon, Foreign Born, Delta Spirit).

10. They were first pointed out to me by a friend who has good taste in music, and I’ve never heard anything negative about them from anyone since then.

On paper, this seems like an airtight case of a sweet band whom no one would have any reason to dislike. But in the face of this massive pile of blessings, there was ONE occurrence ONE time that MIGHT explain why this band has yet to register above ‘meh’ on my music scale.

It was during one show, probably in 2006, at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles. I’d been hearing about them for days and seeing their posters everywhere. They were the newest indie band sweeping the playground, and anyone who was at all in touch with the local music scene was drooling to see them. The night they played the venue was packed to the rafters with the coolest indie kids ever. The room was filled with cereal box sunglasses and argyle socks. Everyone was waiting for the explosion that would mark a milestone in indie history and fulfill the ultimate hipster fantasy of the week. The electricity was palpable.

Finally, when the tension was about to crack the cement sidewalks outside, the band took the stage looking cooler than the mafia. They were razor-sharp, walk-on-water fashionable, and they knew it. In fact, when they started playing they did the coy thing, starting out slow and mysterious. The first song opened with a simple buildup — minimal vocals, minimal melody, and lots of toms and drama. It built and built … and built some more … and kept going … then after what seemed like seven minutes of solid build up, the song just ended. No climax, no satiating the audience, no “here we are, everyone, now you can have fun!” So we (meaning I and the other people in the room who hadn’t yet hit the ceiling) waited around for the next one. Because there was no sense in passing judgment on a band that hadn’t even started playing yet. The next song came around, and yep, it was another long, ultra-cool buildup. Call me presumptuous, but it seemed like the band simply did not want to risk shattering their bubble by hitting the snare and getting things started. Ten minutes into the 30-minute set, they had yet to do anything other than appear aloof and unreadable. I left early, quite perplexed.

It didn’t seem like a bad performance, it was just the live band equivalent of a huge, disappointing tease. Had they been Muse or the Killers, this kind of peg-hole dodging would have been a refreshing curve ball by a band everyone already thinks they have nailed. But when all the audience has to go on is a 6-track EP, for some reason it just doesn’t work the same way.

And hence, rule #467 of the indie rock rulebook: However tight your jeans are, you can’t record an album full of feedback until you’re Lou Reed. Or something like that.

P.S. Here’s an amazing song, which I give a “meh”:


Written by Peter Kimmich

July 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm

One Response

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  1. i think you give them too much credit. they’re too indie for me to even truly try and appreciate. you may not see them as pretentious, but that’s all that i can perceive.


    July 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

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