REVIEW: COLD WAR KIDS – LA DIVINE (2017)
LA Divine is the product of a band that still has energy and ambition, momentum and creativity. For the Cold War Kids to still be channeling those forces on their sixth album is an admirable feat, but by no means unexpected. Since their promising 2006 debut Robbers & Cowards, the Cold War Kids have always projected a comfortable confidence in the band they are and the music they make. Despite changes in personnel over the years, founding members Nathan Willett and Matt Maust continually find talented musicians to help further expand and master the Cold War Kids’ sincere and distinct rock sound. And that’s where we find LA Divine, another lively, uncompromising collection of songs cut from the same devout essence of rock ‘n’ roll and Long Beach soul.
LA Divine is the Cold War Kids’ ode to the unique diversity, culture, wonderment and peculiarities of Los Angeles. Much like the theme of 2013’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, which was based on the fictionalized struggles of an advice columnist in Nathan West’s “Miss Lonelyhearts,” the geographic theme of LA Divine offered rich substance and background to its songwriting. With that said, possibly the most direct presence of LA on the album is displayed in the three short sketches, “LA River,” “Wilshire Protest” and “Cameras Always On.” Each are rough and sparse, yet undeniably poetic. “Wilshire Protest” is an honest portrayal of a sometimes overcharged protestor, while “LA River” and “Camera’s Always On” are more personal, brief bursts of concentrated pleas.
Where LA Divine shines though is where the Cold War Kids always seem to deliver– the soaring anthems, electrifying hooks and insightful ballads. Stomping single “Can We Hang On?” ignites in much of the same way as Hold My Home’s “First.” Like much of LA Divine, the track takes a deeper look at adult life, confronting the crossroads of life decisions amongst continued haunts of youthful dreams, as Willett sings, “We cannot stay forever young and out of our heads.”
The stirring piano hymn “So Tied Up,” featuring promising newcomer Bishop Briggs, tackles those frustrated low points in a relationship (“They never said love is a twisted game and no one ever wins”), yet still maintains an infectious clapping-laced rhythm. The fevered ditty “Luck Down” and agitatedly charged “Ordinary Idols” both further expand upon the tangled downside and ill fortune of Hollywood’s glitter and glow.
The R&B pacing and hollowed tranquility of “Restless” make it a noticeable standout on LA Divine, along with the pop-fused anthem “Part Of The Night.” Both tracks offer more of a modern music exploration than the Cold War Kids typically embrace, but the incorporation is a complementary one, offering a fresh presentation of the band’s soulful rock core. This open-minded approach to different genres, moods, and album themes over their career, has helped the Cold War Kids make six distinct rock albums, each with an unique and recognizable identity.
It’s been nothing but solid efforts since the Robbers & Cowards debut, and LA Divine is no different. On their sixth album, the Cold War Kids are as rejuvenated and focused as ever, and it results in continued additions to their decade-long catalog of memorable rock hits. If LA Divine is any indicator, the Cold War Kids aren’t slowing down, and their enduring contribution to American rock will continue to be a profound one.