“Lord have mercy on me/We’re talkin’ ‘bout two different things.” This is not the first time Cold War Kids’ singer Nathan Willett has expressed that frustration.
When quirky, if not oddly verbose, lyrics are a staple of your indie-rock band, some song meanings are bound to get lost in the translation. However, considering past releases from the Long Beach, CA quartet, the holiday release Behave Yourself is incredibly digestible.
The four-song EP starts with the single “Audience,” one of Cold War Kids catchiest tracks yet. The song maintains a swayable groove, while the hook catches your lips by the second time around. Few songs find a way to move from verse to chorus as efficiently, guaranteeing “Audience” a spot as a crowd favorite at upcoming performances. Following is “Coffee Spoon,” a track, that if slowed down just a bit, would be more fitting in the catalog of The Flamingos, complete with a 1950s falsetto swoon.
“Coffee Spoon” is the album’s most difficult track to figure out. It will take a few listens before even the scholarly are comfortable with lyrics such as “Ascetics wring their hands/This decadent misuse/Inside my china room/You are my coffee spoon.” However, just as you finish choking down the clunky words, a sweet chaser comes in with the funky bass line of “Santa Ana Winds,” a two-and-a-half minute sing-along. Trying to imagine anything other than sand between your toes and a warm ocean breeze on your face is but impossible.
Closing out Behave Yourself is “Sermons,” the slowest moving of the lot. “Sermons” feels all too appropriately titled, as Willett preaches thought-provoking lyrics as his unique vocal tones serve as a podium. At four-and-a-half minutes, it’s the longest track on the EP and provides a strong and fitting finish. The album is less than 15 minutes long, leaving fans yearning for more from the 2009 Loyalty to Loyalty tour that produced Behave Yourself.
For a band with such a unique flavor, Behave Yourself is more of the same, relying heavily on vocals that commandeer most of the mix. The ear may bend to discern a little more of the instrumentation that gives the Cold War Kids its standout sound. However, when it comes to the lyrics, the band still wants you to pay very close attention, lest you miss the one word that help the rest make sense. And while even the Cold War Kids’ catchiest lines can have you scrambling to your dictionary, when Willett sings “I believe the words can change the heart” at the end of “Sermons,” you know he means it.