COLD WAR KIDS > Robbers and Cowards

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Cold Wars Kids are the first to admit that, for them, style is almost as important as sound. Co-founded by a graphic designer, Matt Maust, the Fullerton, Calif. quartet has spent the past two years crafting a truly multi-media persona, which carries through the groups’ T-shirts, website, and album art into its songs.Label: DOWNTOWN
[RATING: 4.5]

Cold Wars Kids are the first to admit that, for them, style is almost as important as sound. Co-founded by a graphic designer, Matt Maust, the Fullerton, Calif. quartet has spent the past two years crafting a truly multi-media persona, which carries through the groups’ T-shirts, website, and album art into its songs. As the Cold War Kids’ name suggests, it is a dark, gritty image, one rooted in a cold, dark wartime America. So it makes sense that Robbers & Cowards references everything from Billie Holiday to the Velvet Underground to Tom Waits.

Driven by keyboardist Nathan Willett’s distressed, nasal voice, Robbers & Cowards is filled with vivid, urban stories of betrayal, like the album’s strangely infectious opening track “We Used to Vacation.” And, while the Cold War Kids’ sound is anything but conventional, the group builds short, catchy singles into its weird time signatures and quirky percussion. Of all the album’s tracks, “Hang Me Up to Dry” is the most immediate, an odd bit of vocal jazz trapped within the confines of traditional indie-rock. Similarly, the piano eulogy “Hospital Beds” and the perverted lounge standard “God, Make Up Your Mind” are throwbacks to the days of Benny Goodman repaved with bits of post-modern neurosis.

Even though a number of  Robbers & Cowards’ tracks originally appeared on Cold War Kids’ early EPs, including the Lou Reed-like ballad “Robbers” and the busy “Tell Me in the Morning,” this collection flows like an art-rock concept album: a song-cycle exploring modern, nihilistic America. Sadly, few albums provide a more fitting soundtrack to our country’s current socio-political climate.

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