Cold War Kids – Behave Yourself EP
Record Label: Downtown Records
Release Date: January 19, 2010
Should we really use the word “disappointed” when discussing bad music? Is it really our right to expect so much from strangers? I see both sides of the argument, I suppose, because these uneducated smelly fools we call musicians are putting themselves out there, thus removing any possible buffer between their right to “make art” and our right to tell them their mother is a bad cook. It all seems a bit self-centered on the part of the listener, I guess. It’s like how your parents tell you they are disappointed, since they only do so to make you feel guilty in the hopes that you will stop leaving Upper Deckers in the guest bathroom. But despite what is right and what is wrong when it comes to notes through speakers, Cold War Kids clearly spent time processing the lackluster response to Loyalty to Loyalty. Every artist will say they only make music for themselves – which, I suppose, is even more self-centered than our whining about songs we don’t like – but they still need us to keep going.
So I’m not saying that Cold War Kids went back to the success of Robbers and Cowards because of our high-pitched complaining. All I’m saying is that the Behave Yourself EPdoes return triumphantly to the fun-loving parlor antics of the band’s debut long player. I make no hard claims as to the why. The reasons behind such a change are mysterious, to be sure, but when Nathan Willett sings, “Lord have mercy on me,” in “Sermons,” a song originally released years prior that was “randomly” placed at the end of Behave Yourself, it does seem like the band used our disappointment (or whatever!) to create the worthy follow-up to Robbers and Cowards we’ve all been waiting for.
Behave Yourself’s meat was even recorded during the Loyalty to Loyalty sessions, but it was decided that songs like the rousing “Audience” and folksy “Coffee Spoon” just wouldn’t fit. I couldn’t agree more. It’s clear that these guys were trying to stretch themselves, but the band’s talent lies less in vaguely masturbatory odes to Johnny Cash’s bad songs and more in teaching nerds how to have fun in smart, piano-filled ways. Willett’s never been one for overt melody, yet even his ghastly wails hook better than some choruses on Loyalty to Loyalty. Still, what this EP shows most effectively is the band’s seemingly innate ability to restrain themselves into a frenzy. The whole band seems to fight for breathing room towards the end of standout “Santa Ana Winds.” The piano builds, Willett screams, “Making headlines again,” and Jonnie Russell’s guitar beats the same riff into our heads with the simple hopes of breaking free. Yet instead of letting loose with trashcan percussion or insane asylum screams, the band fades slowly into a refined finale. Perhaps this advanced sense of dynamics just comes from being a band that’s grown together, or depending on your predilections, maybe it’s just another expected thing that never materializes. Whatever the reason, and regardless of your specific tastes, I think it’s clear that we can start trusting the judgment of Cold War Kids again.
Recommended If You Like: Kings of Leon, Figurines, sheets, Neil Young, vanilla bean