31 January 2007

Review: Cold War Kids

Mercury Lounge, 24 January 2007

Thanks to C-Dawg, aka Ticket Pimp, last week I not only was lucky enough to see these guys or go to this, but I actually got to see the season's hip, new thing: the Cold War Kids, i.e. the new black. Seems like every few months, usually in conjunction with some Pitchfork fawning, a new band bubbles up from the soup of obscurity to start selling out venues in New York. So, the Cold War Kids, before even hitting a note at the sold out Mercury Lounge gig last Wednesday had somehow already sold out the Bowery Ballroom for three nights. I had to see if there was fire behind that smoke, so when the ticket was offered, I obviously said "sure."

Being a week late, this has already been written up by both my host (who valiantly stayed on for last season's "Who's Hot" column-header, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, while I played old man/saving my strength/"they're starting when on a Wednesday night!?!" and went back to the Burbs) as well as Martin Halo at JamBase, amongst other places. So, I won't go into too much detail about the evening. I definitely dug it more than CD did, I loved the loose energy, the not-too-tight jangling of drums and guitar and the often frenetic pace of musicians back and forth on the stage. There was a very green vibe to their performance -- a sort of combination of "why us?" and "why not?" to their presence. Not quite rock star, not quite not.

And really, when it comes down to it, the song "Hang Me Out To Dry" is nothing short of a pop masterpiece, rock poetry at its essence and, live on stage, was well worth every misstep or overenthusiasm thrown their way. The one-two hop of the bass line is irresistible and the rest of it all falls in perfectly behind it. It's not that the band is a one-hit-wonder, I think the rest of their material is just dandy, had me both rocking and rolling along, but I think every Cold War Kids show must, by rule, coalesce around this number.

The opener (that we caught, at least) was Illinois. In every way, I was prepared to be irked by this quartet -- starting with the lead's insistence on doing a "hip hip hooray!" with the audience (I wish I were joking). But as the set blasted its way through a quick 30 minutes of material, I came away pretty impressed. Nothing too new is happening here and even their charisma seems a bit too much, and yet... rock and roll, played well is rock and roll at the very least. Plus, sweet use of 4-string banjo didn't hurt.

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