Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Norm MacDonald made a relatively off-color quip a few weeks ago while appearing on Conan. He was making prognostications, suggesting that he had a gift of foresight, and he said that he'd put his money on people jumping off buildings in the coming months - if he was a betting man. He said it with a disgusting grin and it failed to bring many laughs, understandable in these sorts of climates, where jobs don't exist and neither do houses. There's no longer comfort food. There's no longer security and everyone's hair is falling out. It was reported that the sale of handguns was considerably higher in the month of January than it was the same month a year ago. People - most people - are over their heads and liable to consider turning the lights out. For many, the options available to escape their cocktail of crisis are dwindling to fewer and fewer. As ugly as the truth that MacDonald cracked about is, the ledges are being toed, at least in the minds of so many desperate men and women who can't see through the thick bleakness of uncertainty and futility. Men and woman, dealing with the mean and lean times, think about becoming birds or rocks. Not many are making beautiful plans, just paying closer attention to how their bodies and their wallets are spent, done for. Given a few years of time since the release of their debut album and given these frightening times, the Cold War Kids are still finding the touching torment humming through their characters - these characters who are always so close to closing their eyes and finding a rough, but permanent and quieting landing. Not all of the characters that Nathan Willett sings about are suicidal, but they tend to harbor many fractured thoughts and a confidence so shaken or polluted that they tend to feel as if they've got no one to appeal to, nowhere to turn when the times get so grim and ghostly. The people populating the songs on Robbers & Cowards are different from the ones all over Loyalty To Loyalty in that the majority of them were bastardized versions of people - those who had encountered confliction and ultimately made a choice to veer into the shadows, where the sketchiness lies, lives and bathes. The sophomore album is an animal of a different sort, full of people who don't know how they got to be the way they are, who are saddened by their fate, who are desperately searching for any kind of new solitude and solemnity. They are stuffed with thoughts and worries and not so much the dreams that they used to have as younger people. These are the thoughts that lead to messiness and destruction, but they are thoughts that were grown into existence through few of their own faults and that can eat anyone alive. The lyrics are balanced with the foggy and reverb-y guitars/piano of Willett and Jonnie Russell, the moody, pulsating bass of Matt Maust and the sometimes spare, always dynamic drumming of Matt Aveiro, to put together a sensation of compassion and a depth of personality that's come to be expected of them. The songs contain these people who are hurting, who are uncomfortably helpless, it seems, and it's through Willett's different degrees of his writer's empathy that these lost souls might not end up jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. They might not keep making time with unsavory men that are no better than hound dogs. They might see their luck improve before it comes to stepping off the ledge. The girl - no older than a college junior -- who sits on the busy city street with a cup in her hands for change, lightly weeping, as if embarrassed by her plight will respond to the smile and the kind questions that Willett poses on album and the graciousness of a human heart should it be extended. Or at least that's the hope.
Cold War Kids Official Site