The album cover of Mine is Yours displays what one might expect of the has-been indie hard-hitters: a sloppily written note scrawled across a plain white background. Cold War Kids made their career out of the loud, edgy, blues-laden improvisation of fuzzy guitars, and the infectious passion of lead singer Nathan Willet. The main problem with Mine is Yours might be the fact that it contains none of these crucial elements. Instead, one wouldn’t be entirely at fault if you popped in the CD and mistook the album for the latest Daughtry release.
Willet appears to have caught the highly infectious, and ultimately fatal, American Idol disease. It is clearly evident from his tone that he has either spent a lot of money on voice training or many hours singing in the shower since the release of Loyalty to Loyalty. I have nothing against a classically trained voice, but it is clear here that Cold War Kids have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Willet now resembles the dozens of other half-enthused crooners played routinely by Top 40 radio stations.
You’ve got to speculate what was going through the Cold War Kids’ heads when approaching this album. Perhaps the band thought replacing Willet’s occasionally hoarse, nasal voice with a carefully honed one, with delicate tremolos and sweeping arpeggiotic improvisations, would catapult them to the arena-rocking every 16-year-old who picks up a guitar fantasizes over. Perhaps they are getting old, and the exuberant wails from their early releases just make them grumpy, like my parents when forced to endure my choice of music on the way to school in 10th grade. Or maybe the creative wellspring that produced classic tracks like “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “There’s Something Not Right with Me” was simply a lot shallower then we expected.
Whatever their motivations, one thing is for certain about Mine is Yours, and that’s its foot-tapping prowess. That is, tapping your feet waiting for it to be over. The melodramatic emotional swings of the ultimately soulless effort inspire such immense boredom it is actually difficult to sit through the entire 45 minutes.
What Cold War Kids need to do with their next album, if their new-found sound (cough*disease*cough) doesn’t kill their career where it stands, is to get those devilish Universal executives from whispering in their left ear, stop trying to broaden their appeal, and go back to being the Cold War Kids. The damage done to Willet’s voice can be undone, by either switching to unfiltered cigarettes or just removing the voice-correction software from studio computers.
Though I may sound harsh (even mean) in my critique of Mine is Yours, I assure you it’s all done in love. Cold War Kids were one of my early indie forays, and listening to them lose their main asset, authenticity, is almost as painful as it would be to watch LCD Soundsystem give up music to sell Sham-wows. I hope, somehow, that these new-found big-shots hear my public cry and heed my advice. Hopefully I won’t be drowned out by the inevitable screeching of 14-year-old girls that comes with releasing an album of this caliber.
-Dave Greek, host of dc ba Mondays 9-10pm