Album Review: ‘LA DIVINE’ by Cold War Kids
Written by Reid Smith on April 9, 2017
By: Dylan Reynolds
Title: LA DIVINE
Artist: Cold War Kids
Record Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: April 7, 2017
California-based rock band Cold War Kids has been around for thirteen years now. That time has seen the group release six albums, undergo a few lineup changes, and fluctuate in hype and popularity. That time has also seen the band gradually move their focus from bluesy rock to radio-friendly pop-rock.
On their new release, LA DIVINE, Cold War Kids continue the trend towards mainstream pop-rock, although the music itself is enjoyable enough to lessen the displeasure of good musicians commercializing themselves.
LA DIVINE, as one might expect, is a tribute to Los Angeles, the old stomping grounds of the band members. However, the concept of the album often takes a backseat to Cold War Kids’ pursuit of a hit single, which is annoyingly obvious at times. The album opener, “Love is Mystical,” may be the most cliché pop-rock tune you’ll ever hear. The chorus of “love is mystical, love will break the chains” is painfully corny, and the rest of its lyrics do little to redeem that.
Two of the other singles, “Can We Hang On ?” and “Restless,” are more enjoyable, although equally mainstream-sounding. Lead singer Nathan Willett’s vocal performances are, as always, memorable. “Restless” is the first song on LA DIVINE that actually seems to be about Los Angeles, capturing the uneasy energy of the city’s success-driven residents. “I don’t get jealous, I get free” is a memorable line from that track.
Following “Restless” on the tracklist is “LA River,” a minute-long interlude. Despite its lack of length, “LA River” stands out as one of the few songs on the album that resemble Cold War Kids’ early work. Amid reverb-soaked guitars, Willett alludes to the concrete-lined riverbed when asking a New Yorker to switch coasts.
The album’s other two interludes also prove to be interesting. “Wilshire Protest” is a spoken-word track that sounds straight out of Fight Club. On the track, Willett’s critique of Hollywood culture is gradually absorbed by guitars and background vocals. The third interlude, “Cameras Always On” is an untouched piano-and-vocals iPhone recording, which has a simple beauty contrasted sharply by the slick production of the rest of LA DIVINE. Too bad it’s a 36-second song.
Overall, LA DIVINE is decent album. Though Cold War Kids have drifted far from their roots, they still know how to write engaging and memorable songs. Willett is still on top of his game as a vocalist, and he no longer feels the need to flaunt how high and loud he can sing all the time. So can Cold War Kids hang on? Yeah, probably for a little while longer.