Cold War Kids are largely lacking in energy on their sophomore full-length, Loyalty to Loyalty.The Fullerton, California act made serious waves two years ago with their debut LP, Robbers & Cowards, especially thanks to singles like “We Used To Vacation” and “Hang Me Up To Dry”. Their mixture of blues guitars and saloon pianos, along with the forceful vocals of singer Nathan Willett, was not a bold reinvention, but still a strong delivery. Yet, with one or two notable exceptions, Loyalty to Loyalty is missing the kind of electricity that Cold War Kids first brought.
Opener “Against Privacy” starts Loyalty on just that note: the blues vocals and drums echo in an empty hall, along with light guitars, but there’s not enough color, leaving the piece dragging. This element pervades much of the record, though most of the other tracks do a better job of mitigating it. The following “Mexican Dogs” and “Every Valley Is Not a Lake” get a bit more saloon energy. Later on, “Every Man I Fall For” is clearly the strongest of these grand, empty opera house numbers, but still shows the limitations of the approach. Meanwhile, piano tracks like “Avalanche in B”, “On the Night My Love Broke Through”, and finisher “Cryptomensia” feel like they go on far longer than their actual time.
There are still a few pieces on Loyalty that escape this trend, most notably single “Something Is Not Right With Me”, which has the pressing, explosive energy that the rest of the record lacks (and woe betide someone who buys it, based just on the single…). The higher moments on “Dreams Old Men Dream” make it feel almost expansive; possibly overlookable, “Dreams” really shouldn’t be. The bass-heavy “Relief” is more reminiscent of Robbers and other earlier work.
In some ways, Loyalty to Loyalty’s flaws shouldn’t come as a surprise: Robbers & Cowards likewise had a few really amazing, stand out singles – and some other songs no one remembers. But while Robbers’ errors could be forgiven somewhat, in light of the band’s youth, the lack of forceful energy on most of Loyalty feels like a real letdown.