By: Mal Holmes
Cold War Kids is an alternative/indie rock band that has been on the music scene since 2004. Some bands have trouble maintaining their sound while also discovering new ways to reinvent their sound for both new and old fans. However, this cult band illustrates growth, complex themes of love and loss, and coming to terms of oneself.
The first song, “Double Life”, is energetic with a tense guitar and drum pattern, but it’s the lyrics that make the song so moving. As an opposition to the following song, “Run Away With Me”, “Double Life” examines a man in a relationship questioning life outside of the loveless relationship. It steadies on the toxic masculinity instilled with him and expands on the narrative of not feeling loved which carries out through the rest of the album. Moreover, “Run Away With Me” differs in that it centers on the other partner in the relationship and their commitment.
Another notable aspect of the band itself is that they deliver their vocalizations so well that it allows every song to be a collective experience. Even when discussing a partner slipping away, such as in “Stray”, the brightness of the production and chorus-like melodies sound as if you are listening to “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner. Nevertheless, they can balance out their more depressive lyricism with energetic, crowd-fueled songs, such as in “Toxic Mask”. My favorite lyrics are “Or else you’ll fall through the cracks / Like a panic attack” and “We became the very wolves that raised us / We must not betray the pack” because it exemplifies how the band can resonate with their fans through powerful imagery that manages to be direct and not too abstract.
The rest of the album continues to depict toxic love and an ending relationship while attempting to find peace being alone as well as understanding how to love properly. “Empty Inside” is the titular ‘I am a waste of space in this world’ song that highlights how lead, Nathan Willett, has internalized a devastating breakup and is at a low point in his life. He wonders “What if (he’s) empty inside? What if (his) heart is a whole?” because he is lovelorn and wondering if he could ever love anyone. The constant back and forth of wondering where to place blame and one’s capability of love furthers why this album is one of the best albums of 2023 and one of the best of Cold War Kids.
P.S. I highly encourage listening to “Sunday in the City” as it is the pure standout of the album with its sudden change of jazz, rhythm and blues soundscape and overall “love in the city during fall” energy. 🙂