"Something Is Not Right With Me" by Cold War Kids
Considering the political touches that Cold War Kids sprinkle throughout Loyalty To Loyalty¸ it's hard not to view "loyalty" in its recent political context: When it's valued more than competence, the word is no longer so positive. It has an unfortunate connotation here, since the band rigidly (and, yes, loyally) adheres to the sound of its impressive debut Robbers & Cowards, whether it's working or not. While that record managed to blend the disparate aesthetics of classic, Woodstock-esque soul-rock and stripped-down, bar-basement blues, the jittery urgency on Loyalty To Loyalty has been largely stripped of songcraft. Nathan Willett is no longer content with a mere Jack White-style wail; he resorts to screechy barking on "Something Is Not Right With Me," an otherwise fine tune that could withstand the oral onslaught were it not taken to even greater extremes on the following track, "Welcome To The Occupation." To be fair, the record, though more of the same, does have catchy moments: The band is still best when it pumps energy through the piano, and poppy numbers such as "Every Valley Is Not A Lake" succeed. But the loyalty to the exact sound—minus the real hooks—that got Cold War Kids noticed keeps things mostly stagnant.