I don’t usually write bad reviews, and I don’t usually review albums on major labels. The Cold War Kids are now on Capitol Records, and the heavy-hitting production seems like a calculated attempt to regain the magic of their first, transcendent album, “Robbers and Cowards.” And it doesn’t work. But not because the band isn’t any good. It’s because they’re not there anymore. “Restless” shows they can make a complex ballad, with time changes and even falsetto. There are songs on this album that you shouldn’t miss. On one of the standout, excellent singles on the record, “So Tied Up,” the band proves they can still calculate a terrific pop song with great lyrics–but that they’ve grown. They’re tighter, crisper. Nathan Willet’s vocals are still full of pain, but he’s got actual range now. He’s not just wailing. (He’s wailing, he’s not just wailing). But for most of the rest of the album, they seem to insist on being the same as they were a decade ago. Like “Invincible.” “Luck Down.” And “No Reason to Run” just feels forced and artificial.
And for that, I blame the label.
This is the CWK’s best record since their second. And there are moments where it’s easy to see why they are still so fondly remembered as one of the best indie bands ever. But there are not enough of them.
I’m asking the label: Let this band grow into the greatness they promised us with their debut–and that shines through, occasionally on this new release.