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Cold War Kids – Glasgow ABC

There are a lot of acts out there jostling for our acclaim, striking come hither-poses and asking ‘you looking for a date honey?’ before taking our love. They try to grab your attention any way they can, and like desperate punters in a singles bar, there are some obvious shortcuts. Volume, for example, is the aural equivalent of a patent leather mini-skirt; obvious, but does the job. Of course, some people are more attractive by retaining some mystery. It’s not the bits you see, but what’s left to the imagination.

Cold War Kids fell into the latter camp. Their promising debut album ‘Robbers and Cowards’ was best sampled live. Built on a skewered, twisting drum backbone, you had echo-laden vintage guitars, piano stabs, depth charge bass and intriguing, yelped vocal lines. It was a strange mix, sounds dropping in and out creating a harmoniously eerie noise which was disarming and attractive.

In the year or so that’s passed though, Cold War Kids have decided to don that mini-skirt. They arrive on stage in full foot-on-the-monitors mode, careering around the fantastically cool black and white and barely lit stage and playing at an absolutely incredible volume. It’s really strange, like seeing a girl from school who used to be in uniform now dressing like a vamp. It works best on new single ‘Something Is Not Right With Me’, all shouting and chaos and is rather exciting. Of course, this being Glasgow, the sound guy is overwhelmed and doesn’t get it right till about 20 minutes in. I don’t know why they do that. Maybe it’s tradition.

After a while, though, the sonic assault becomes repetitive, as sonic assaults inevitably do. If you realise this, you use it to your advantage, such as in the drones of My Bloody Valentine. Or you can vary it with some light and shade. But even on slower material such as ‘We Used to Vacation’, you get the impression that the band can’t wait to get past the quiet bits and get the fuzz pedal back on. When you can’t hear the drums for the guitars, it’s not right.

‘Hang Me Out To Dry’, though, does benefit from this more muscular approach and is received like a benefits cheque by this strangely chav-infested audience (who knew ver Kids reached out to the dole moles?)  After this, it’s back to a diet of more of the same which never drops below decent, but isn’t as good as when they were genuinely odd.

The ending offers a glimpse of what they can be, however. The magisterial ‘Hospital Beds’ is almost unnaturally beautiful, a song of such dignity and beauty it’s almost regal. The guitars echo, the drums boom and the voices duel on their sad story of approaching mortality. It’s elegiac gentleness contrasts sharply with the rest of the set.

So hopefully it’s just a phase they are going through and one which will end soon. the Cold War Kids are actually a decent rock band – but they are much better when they define easy categorization. Ditch the trendy clobber and get back in the check shirts guys.


3 Responses

  1. Gave the Dublin show last night a skip. Just cannot get into the new album and they wanted 30-odd notes to see them play. Not likely.

  2. hospital beds got me hooked on the band last winter. listened through the new album and wasn’t very impressed. hopefully it’s a grower

  3. Put it like this guys, they played three from the first album and they were the highlights.

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