When California’s Cold War Kids debuted in the middle of the last decade, they wowed with their impressive indie-soul/blues-rock – but since then, they’ve largely lacked that same kind of energy, with a few great singles, but middling albums. The band’s recovered from the nadir that was follow-up Loyalty to Loyalty (QRO review), but have never regained their initial momentum. That continues with another hit-or-miss record, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts.
Lonelyhearts does start out very well with opener/first single “Miracle Mile”, which is the nicely active Cold War Kids you once loved. But then comes two darker and ‘tronic tracks that aren’t what the band does best (“Lost That Easy”, “Loner Phase”), as the lack of energy kicks in. Relaxed and resigned (“Fear & Trembling”), sway & wry (“Tuxedos”, “Bottled Affection”), stark soul-blues (“Water & Power”, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts”) – they’re all fine for what they are, but one can’t help but want the band to kick it in gear (and the explosion near the end of “Fear”, or sadder sway going big in closer “Bitter Poem”, don’t count). Only “Jailbirds” revives that aliveness.
At this point, one should just accept that the Cold War Kids are not the band that did such songs as “We Used To Vacation” and “Hang Me Out To Dry” (QRO video) – but they still show moments of reclaiming that greatness. The frustration of a band that’s not as good as they could be mars an otherwise decent record.