The third-album redefinition of an artist tends to be a polarizing event for fans, particularly if the band in question has deliberately slowed the hurricane winds of progress to ensure that their path is still on their own terms. Taking stock, evaluating value and taking the time to craft a confident third step is characteristic of a band in the Cold War Kids‘ position, but rarely does the circumstance result in such a tidal shift of tone and mood.
Mine Is Yours is the first Cold War Kids album to include a producer outside the band, and the influence is immediately recognizable. Jacquire King, the man responsible for the mainstreaming of Kings of Leon, adds breadth and rounded edges to the jagged seafaring designs that the Long Beach quartet have employed & designed thus far in their careers. The results are the clearest-stated collection of tracks the band has produced yet, having been honed over the span of several months rather than the relatively fast production of a typical Cold War Kids album session.
A Coldplay-meets-U2 anthemic ambition kicks off the title track, a drum-driven call to clap-alongs with spacious grandiosity, while singer "Louder Than Ever" carries the upbeat tone to more familiar CWK territory, rhythmic flourishes giving flight to breathless melodic brightness. It’s a pleasantly accessible two-piece introduction, giving way to funk-laced hip-shaker "Royal Blue," flexing their strength for hooks with deliberately more immediate payoff than their previous work.
King’s involvement is an inevitable bone of contention among fans, who will have a hard time believing that tracks like "FInally Begin" – which begs for a Steve Lillywhite writing credit – would’ve come to fruition on the band’s own terms. Commercial ambition is a thick filter to lay upon a band whose sound has been so characteristically specific in flavor, and the impression will be off-putting to a significant section of their audience. The band is aware of the risk, though relatively unconcerned with the fallout of having traded expectations for envelope-pushing experimental vision. "If it doesn’t work, we’ll just make another one," frontman Nathan Willett casually explained in our recent interview.
It’s not that they don’t care how the album’s perceived, so much as they’re acknowledging the inevitable polarization of a direction decision that was just as much about establishing well-considered ground after the whirlwind reception of their previous two albums. All the same, terrifically unique and powerful moments still abound, as through the drum-machine funk filter of delightful odd-bird "Sensitive Kid". Willett’s falsetto-swing delivery at the track’s conclusion does nothing to prepare you for the cliff-dropping abruptness of its end, leading to an exaggerated sensation of gratitude when the slow-boil rise of "Bulldozer" sets in. "
"We can beat this, you and me / Just a matter of degrees," Nathan begins, a heartsick melodic fire with thunderstorms of percussion passing like a volatile, yet reticent, storm front. The track captures the greatest glory of what the Cold War Kids deliver: a spacious gravity that builds to anthemic heights, making full use of emotional manipulation before taking the listener to a new place of realization and, ultimately, payoff in climax. The “I can feel your arms around me” section is a beautiful arena-worthy breakdown, slowly building back into the song’s initial pacing with a grandiosity not far from U2’s signature balladic tendencies.
Willett’s literary fascinations helped in the translation to more personal narratives, pulling inspiration from Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone, among others. Franzen’s uncompromising autobiographical confessionals inspired the singer to dwell in areas that he’d normally rely on abstracts to avoid addressing head-on. "I wanted to say something that was more representative of my life, less abstract and character-driven," Nathan explains, "There’s something so special about someone revealing something that is very much themselves in that you know it’s very uncomfortable for them to write, uncomfortable for the people they know, their family and so on."
The jangling, slow-rising opening to the haunted-house tones of "Cold Toes on the Cold Floor" was a spontaneous design that became one of the band’s favorite moments on the album. As Willett explains, "That was one of my favorite studio moments. The role that Jacquire played as a producer was pretty unique. He wasn’t musically pushing us a lot of different ways. He would patiently make comments about arrangements, and with that song, we weren’t sure how to do it. It was a heavier, guitar-driven and busier version that we’d been playing all day long. I moved over to the organ instead of playing guitar, and he stripped everything down and did it all in one take. We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen at every point, and we were playing off of each other, and it was the most spontaneous thing on the record. Definitely one of our favorite moments.
The impending darkness of their previous work is chased off by self-examining realization that the deep end of life can be a positive experience, once you adapt to the initial shock of immersion. “I have been broken open / by my most trusted friend…it feels so strange to feel good,” Willet sings on "Broken Open". It’s a sensation some of us may have to get used to, but the new mood suits the Cold War Kids just fine.
CraveOnline Rating: 7 out of 10