‘Robbers & Cowards’ is Cold War Kids’ debut album. Released October 2006, it apparently became the blog music talk of the end of the year. It’s a wonderful indie album, that MYSPACE MUSIC describes much better than I can: “Reagan babies, missile fears, and international blues. Cold War Kids started with jangly guitar, hand claps, and a Harmony amp in a storage room atop Mulberry Street restaurant in downtown Fullerton, CA. For the first practices, having instruments was not as important as heavy stomping and chanting. Clanging on heat pipes, thumping on plywood walls. Hollering into tape recorders. Slipping and swaying into alleyways and juke joints of yesteryear. Dreaming the American dust bowl and British maritime. On the restaurants roof the sound and feeling was cultivated and burned, built and hallowed out, painted and stripped to the primer. Cold War Kids make songs about human experience in orchards and hotel rooms, laundromats and churches, sea ports and school halls. Using songs of Dylan, Billie Holiday, and the Velvet Underground as a road map, they strive to manipulate, structure, and style their music with honesty”.
And Allmusic writes: “Their evocative, oddly soulful vignettes contain shades of Spoon’s sardonic, piano-driven rock; the insistent, jittery feel of One Time Bells-era French Kicks; the poetic, rumpled ramblings of the Walkmen; the stripped-down bluesiness of the White Stripes; and in their more theatrical moments, a ghostly trace of Jeff Buckley, as well as touches of folk and gospel. That’s not to say that Cold War Kids are derivative — it’s more like they take inspiration in classic sounds (indie or otherwise) and tweak them to their own designs. And even if there’s more comforting, built-in familiarity with a touch of freshness in their music than radical originality, there’s something to be said for familiarity, especially when it’s done this well. For fans of the band’s EPs, Robbers & Cowards will sound familiar for another reason: it takes most of its songs from Up in Rags and With Our Wallets Full, giving them a slightly fuller, cleaner sound. Fortunately, this only enhances the band’s most distinctive assets: Nathan Willett’s high-pitched, nasal, vibrato-heavy voice, a love it or hate it instrument that gives Cold War Kids a huge part of their character, and their way with storytelling and lyrics with a bookish eye and ear for detail. “We Used to Vacation,” a dry-eyed account of alcoholism’s effect on a family, and “Passing the Hat,” a tale of stealing from the collection plate at church that sounds like it could be from an indie rock musical about the Great Depression, combine both to great effect, but it’s the genuine warmth in “Hospital Beds” that makes it the finest moment on an exciting, accomplished debut album.”
The following video clip contains three song samples (’We Used To Vacation’, ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’ and ‘Hospital Beds’); it’s a collage of impressions from their travels as a band and meant to be their own intro to their music (which to my mind is a bit more varied than the three songs suggest – for examples ‘Saint John’ or ‘Robbers’ are quite different). By the way: their current website content gives a much better visual insight into their tour travels … great collection of b&w photos (click on home page photo).