It’s twelve years since Cold War Kids released their debut EP, and they have been desperately trying to make themselves relevant ever since. Unfortunately, it seems that mediocre indie bands made up entirely of white men will always be considered topical to our modern musical landscape, particularly when they are waxing lyrical with tortured metaphors and themes of vaguely failed relationships.
One such plaintive call to action is the opening song on LA DIVINE, ‘Love is Mystical.’ It’s manipulatively catchy, with clapping hands and screeching guitar riffs as Nathan Willet asks “can’t you hear the future is calling?” Perhaps this call to action and belief in the future is representative of a dogged determination that has brought Cold War Kids to their sixth studio album.
The most confusing aspect of this record is not its mere existence, but the lack of a cohesive sound – it’s hard not to wonder if the band merely took influence from every artist that was popular at the time the record was being created. ‘Can We Hang On?’ is a ballad that sounds almost as if The Chainsmokers had taken the indie route rather than the EDM one. It’s full of trite lyrics such as “dying to live” combined with the usual story of a relationship about to unfurl, without any hooks in the melody to save it.
‘Restless’, on the other hand, is an anthem for those who have found themselves with wives and children and on the odyssey of ennui that seems to only happen for thirty-something men, complete with weak vocals and bored drum beats. It’s essentially your coworker’s Coldplay cover band playing in a garage.
At least with the two songs discussed above, the influences do kind of make sense – they’re imitating popular songs. In the latter half of the album, however, LA DIVINE ceases to make musical sense. ‘No Reason to Run’ has opening bars that sound like something out of arguably the most irritating musical to be created, RENT; while ‘Wilshire Protest’ is a spoken word piece about activism with lo-fi instrumentals that is as tone-deaf as a recent Pepsi commercial. ‘Cameras Always On’ sounds like a mournful piano piece written by one of the many ardent fans that insist that La La Land is a revolutionary piece of art, and at thirty-six seconds is entirely unnecessary within the album as a whole.
This album is a bad one, objectively. Even if considered within the genre of bland indie bands, the tangential nature and lack of any sort of musical theme throughout creates a fractured sound that cannot be ignored.