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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “New EP, soulful, somber”

    Despite a dramatic change in tone on its second studio album, the Cold War Kids of Fullerton, Calif., have stationed themselves as the eminent source of hyper-literate, soul-infused punk in today’s music scene. The new EP, Behave Yourself, comes with a burning question: have the Kids returned to their soulful roots or redefined their sound yet again?

    The answer appears to be a bit of both. Behave Yourself is comprised of four tracks that can’t quite be relegated to the boastfully soulful style of the Kids’ debut EP, Robbers and Cowards, or the washed-out, amped-up bulk of its lachrymose rebuttal, Loyalty to Loyalty, but falls somewhere along the fringes of both — squat in the happy medium of the Venn diagram of Cold War Kids’ releases. The mix is upbeat and danceable, but not without the deep, echoing instrumentation that characterized the more somber tracks on Loyalty to Loyalty. 

    The opening track “”Audience,”” for example, is distinguished by an infectious arena rock piano lead, joined later by celebratory clapping hands on the backbeat. The tone shifts during the bridge as Nathan Willett’s vocals turn into a ghostly moan and Jonnie Russell’s guitar gently weeps, making it unclear whether the song is an endorsement or a dissuasion of “”playing for an audience of one.””

    The following tracks, though, are more unambiguously joyful. Following a breezy guitar, the lyrics of “”Coffee Spoon”” channel both the social criticism of Loyalty to Loyalty and the narrative romance of Robbers and Cowards, asserting that “”every lawyer in his prime, every lawyer in his prime / is nostalgic for the bars, naïveté to crime”” before later adding, “”I was celebrating Lent with a candle in a tent / when you came and snatched me up out of retirement”” — not to mention the creatively cute chorus. Next time you’re in your significant other’s doghouse, smooth things over with a tender recitation of “”you are my coffee spoon.””

    The EP ends with some refreshing callbacks to the Kids’ debut, first with “”Santa Ana Winds”” whose peppy guitar lead is instantly reminiscent of their earlier “”Tell Me in the Morning,”” then with the revamped ballad, “”Sermons,”” formerly a lo-fi, acoustic-only hidden track on Robbers and Cowards. The recall of “”Sermons,”” now fully electric and hauntingly resounding, is a dense, chilling testament to the overwhelming soul beneath Willett’s punkish veneer, as well as a measure of how the Kids’ sound has evolved over these four years.

    From the basement to the stadium, the Kids are all right. Except for this EP’s brevity (you can power through it in 15 minutes), there’s little worth moaning about — unless of course you’re just trying to keep up with Willet’s lyrics.

    Behave Yourself is available on iTunes for $3.99.

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