Monday, October 09, 2006

Cold War Kids: Taking Over LA

I could write this entry about how I used to share a quad in Stewart Hall with bassist Matt Maust, but I won't. Actually, there are some good stories there that involve Seinfeld, Rian, Dave, Phil and Jairus. (There's my one life reference for the month). No, I am writing merely as a fan.

It is past time to write something about the
Cold War Kids, who are, in my mind, one of the bands that everyone should be hearing about in the next year or so (think Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens). If you haven't heard of the Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens, don't worry, there's still time for you.

Cold War Kids, from left to right, Jonnie Russell, Matt Maust, Matt Aveiro, and Nathan Willett, looking all Hollywood.

Anyway, CWK have been plastered all over the media out here in LA, including an article that was on the cover of the LA Times
calendar section, the front cover of O.C. Weekly, and a full page article in Spin Magazine. Last night, CWK was also featured on the KROQ (LA's big modern rock station) show that plays local bands. I suspect big things, and have for months, even before I went to a sold out show featuring CWK as the headliners at the Troubadour back on Sep. 8th. The venue was packed as CWK unleashed their minimalistic yet rich sound to the enthusiastic audience. I couldn't help but think that they are the perfect Hollywood band—not in the sense of today's image-driven movie society, but a landmark like the Troubadour that hearkens back to the Golden Era of motion picture and rock of the '50s and '60s.

I dislike comparing CWK to other bands, because they are already so distinct in their style. They have the simple, pure, rock beauty of someone like the White Stripes, combined with the soul of blues and the narrative ability of Johnny Cash. This is rock and roll before the electronic invasion of synthesizers and guitar pedals. This is a garage band playing on a paddle-wheel river boat sailing across the forgotten American landscape. This is genuine music.

The songs themselves are quite compelling. They tell stories of people searching for redemption, but perhaps not always finding it. The driving base lines of "We Used to Vacation" or "Hang Me Up to Dry" suggest a primal urgency—a direct need for creative expression, while the fragility of "Pregnant" and the ballad of "St. John" demonstrate that CWK is no one trick pony. Or, for that matter, no one hit wonder. Their live show is just as raw and exciting as their songs—where makeshift instruments are beat upon the stage, and band members collide with one another, as if intoxicated by the melody.

Robbers and Cowards, the first full-length release from Cold War Kids is due out tomorrow and available in stores everywhere.

Robbers and Cowards, designed by bassist Matt Maust

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