Having gone through somewhat of an evolution in their decade long career, and in recent years seeing the departures of guitarist Jonnie Russell and drummer Matt Aviero, as well as receiving mixed reviews on a number of releases that followed their breakout LP Robbers & Cowards in 2006, it seems Southern California natives Cold War Kids have regained their balance and pieced together a new foundation of consistency with Hold My Home – the addition of former Modest Mouse alums Dann Gallucci and Joe Plummer, as well as a helping hand from Lars Stalfors of Mars Volta fame, probably having something to do with this.
It is conceivable, too, that the opening three tracks on Hold My Home might be classed among Cold War Kids’ best. Kicking off with the instantly infectious ‘All This Could Be Yours’, which contains all the trademark features of what Cold War Kids can offer – piano notes strong and hard-hitting, sinewy alt-rock guitars and cymbal bashing adding a simpler layer, while Nathan Willett’s unique orotund voice resonating above it all, with pithy lines like “I have heard your sad luck misfortune speech.” The second track, jovially titled ‘First’ (purposely done, right?), is a clap-along anthem with stirring, percussive stomps and lyrically focuses on the uncertainty of romanticism, “First you get close, then you get worried.” ‘Hot Coals’, the lead single, has a certain muscularity to it while at the same time teems with unrestrained anxiousness; the ragged, slightly chaotic guitars and mood-ridden drum beat with the dynamics of Willet’s voice make for an enjoyable indie jam.
The remainder of Hold My Home is nearly as enthusiastic, achieving many of the attributes Cold War Kids have sought on previous efforts. For example, the electric ‘Drive Desperate’ with its energetic four-on-the-floor beat, spirited “We are not alone” chorus and culminating with a rare CWK guitar solo. Likewise, the title track recaptures some of the band’s earlier work (think 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty) with energising immediacy. Another highlight is the name-dropping of literary critic Harold Bloom into a song title, showing they haven’t completely lost their bookish inclination. Drawing Hold My Home to a climactic end comes the mournful and haunting blues gospel inspired ‘Hear My Baby Call’.
The overall result is some of Cold War Kids’ most pleasurable and fulfilling music since their debut, while showcasing a band with a different awareness than in the past and a band aiming for a more polished, mainstream-pop oriented sound.