We're the Cold War kids in many ways - our cultural, political, and economic inputs were strongly influenced by the bipolar juxtaposition of two power blocs in the world as we grew to adulthood. The knowledge of the Other was always there, even if we chose to deny it with our 'non-aligned' stance. Listening to the first full-length album from the California band Cold War Kids brought home many memories, or perhaps nostalgic reflections.
The band combines emo with alt-rock and Dylan-esque lyrics to produce an overall satisfying album, many of whose tracks were released earlier as EPs. The band was a hit at the 2006 SXSW and Lollapalooza festivals, and will be touring this year with the White Stripes. They are signed to the Downtown Records label, also home to Gnarls Barkley and Kevin Michael.
The album begins with an ominous rattle in a song about the dangers and allure of alcoholism, "We Used To Vacation". A workingman 'stumbles out the room' at noon, only to 'run up a tab/on 7th and flower'. His violent streak is accentuated by the alcohol, the menacing rattle serving as an undertone of rising tension, while he consoles himself that 'things could be much worse/natural disasters on the evening news/.../we still got our health/my paycheck in the mail'. He protests that he's 'an honest man/provides for me and mine' and that 'this will all blow over in time', but we know that he'll be back for another drink, another one for the road, and to 'sink into oblivion'. The song culminates in a cappella voices and discordant piano chords.
The next song, "Hang Me Up To Dry" seems a more uplifting song, full of joie de vivre and being 'careless in our summer clothes splashing around/in the muck and rain', but has a self-aware dangerous sense of being beaten down once too often. He pleads to 'hang me up to dry/you wrung me out/too too too many times'. The song is a continuous chorus as it were, and has a clockwork-style accompaniment.
Just like the great male endeavour, historically, has been to reform and reshape the world in their own image, it is indubitably the great female endeavour to reshape/reform their men in an idealized manner. "Tell Me In The Morning" deals with the male ennui of facing this unstoppable female force and pleading to 'save it for the morning'. the singer acknowledges that his mate 'would like/like to change me/make me softer' and that he has in the past 'shouted questions like a fierce fire', while she's 'tried to take me by the arm/into the light', He's now 'almost over', but confesses to 'one more thing' - 'self deception' and that he's been his 'own thief in the night'. The second half of the song is a subtly reworked version of the first, where he recognizes his own need to 'be my own teacher' and how she 'tried to take me into your arms and lead me to the light'. In the end, men would not be complete without the female reformation as it were, or perhaps, without getting in touch with their inner selves, as the song seems to hint at.