Cold War Kids, Houses

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Editorial Review

By Jeff Wisser
Friday, April 5, 2013

Bands lose their way. Some claw their way back. Cold War Kids’ new album, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” suggests they may be in the latter category.

The California band made its name in the mid 2000s with EPs and a couple of albums that demonstrated a gift for storytelling and a sound that applied a soulful lacquer to smart indie-rock. The band’s first full-length disc, “Robbers & Cowards,” blended a breezy rock sensibility with slightly edgy, Tom Waits-lite sonics.

A road-warrior touring schedule positioned frontman Nathan Willett and his bandmates as a force to be reckoned with, but they squandered much of their indie luster with 2011’s “Mine Is Yours,” a bland grab for arena-rock glory. Enter “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” a disc produced by new guitarist Dann Gallucci that trades on Willett’s vocal swagger and abandons the generic, Train-wannabe pop-rock.

Uncompromising and soul-soaked, “Lonelyhearts” is filled with such big, slow-burn air-punchers as “Bitter Poem,” “Fear and Trembling” and the title track. Sure, the band can be precious and over the top, and the band wears its influences on its sleeves. (“Loner Phase” could be a New Order cover, and “Miracle Mile” has some of the hellbent-for-leather energy of “I Will Follow”-era U2.) But this outing is anything but bland. Good or bad, the band holds back nothing and succeeds on the strength of its musical audacity.