Review: Ben Connolly
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|The Kings of Leon really do have a lot to answer for, don’t they? There’s the re-introduction of initially swampy Dixie-styled rock, and the tight jeans, the lank hair and the homely Southern drawl, to name just a few. Perhaps more worryingly was the eagerness with which they helped to re-introduce some seriously lol-worthy Spinal Tap moments back into the world of rawk (just follow one of the brothers Followill’s twitter-feed to get an idea on how little grasp they have on reality), and by how much their adoring young fan-base seemed to lap it up. There was also the the warp-speed with which they jumped from being a curious, intriguing pseudo-experimental rock band into a firmly entrenched MOR behemoth of blandness and pyrotechnics.|
The result of this, and the greatest crime of all it must be seen, must be the fact they’ve shown this warp-speed blandification as a legitimate career-path with similar like-minded wanna-be acts.
The latest of these is California’s Cold War Kids, whose third album Mine Is Yours has just landed and has signalled quite clearly that the quartet has its eyes firmly on being the next revelation of arena-style rock. From start to finish the album is big and boxy and packs a serious bottom-end punch, which highlights a clear delineation between it and its predecessors (2006’s debut Robbers & Cowards and 2008 follow up Loyalty to Loyalty). It’s no suprise that KoL’s knob twirler Jacquire King had a big hand in this production. For all the bombast and pomp, however, there’s something not quite fitting in the equation and by album’s end, it’s all a little limp and contrived.
It starts out promising enough, with a soft, dreamy electronic sound scape easing into the title track, a light-weight and palatable bittersweet love song. The tune builds and it gives way to the classic made-for-the-arena call-and-response chorus (“What’s mine is yours”, natch). But there’s no refrain or relief, just a return to the spiralling moribund and dreary short chants which leaves the listener a little listless, searching for the rest of the story. It doesn’t come and the opening quartet of tracks (Louder Than Ever, Royal Blue and Finally Begin) simply repeat the formula, labouring the point that they believe they already have one hand on the stage door of the next great big arena gig. Out of The Wilderness provides a highlight, as it works away from the big chorus and pushy guitars and rests more on syncopated rhythms and a solid story to carry it along. Alas the tune is itself out of the wilderness and is overshadowed by all the tall timber around it.
The production is Stadium Rock 101: big guitars, largely no-nonsense solid kit work and full, tubular bass lines. It’s devoid of the spikes, sharp edges and cracks synonymous with their first two efforts and is polished to within an inch of its existence, and then some. The plastic tinnie drum-machine sound of Sensitive Kid is the peak of the production wankery, with the cringe-worthy drum line only matched by is sad faux-falsetto vocal refrain. Bulldozer coming in after is just strange – an earnest delivery seemingly about being run over by a large mechanical device. I’m sure there’s a metaphore in there somewhere, but it’s somewhat hidden by the almost farcical nature of this Bob The Builder ditty for grown ups.
Perhaps this is too harsh, though. Perhaps it speaks more of the reviewers prejudice towards “me too-ism” in music? Sure it does, particularly if that “me too-ism” fails to bring anything of value to the table. In spite of this sheer bald-faced ambition, this offering fails to lay the foundation of what brings success in those circles: killer hooks, oodles of punch and a fair whack of ballsy-swagger. And as a result, it will see these tunes and this band relegated to the also-ran status.
Artist Website: Cold War Kids
Review: Ben Connolly
Other article by Ben Connolly…
* Gareth Liddiard “Strange Tourist” Album Review
* Nicholas Roy “In A Shoebox Under The Bed” – LP Review
* Blame Ringo “In A Hurricane” – Single Review
* Jeff Lang @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne – 11 September 2010 – Live Review
* Live Review: Ball Park Music, Blame Ringo, Tin Can Radio @ The Zoo, Brisbane 21 May 2010