Cold War Kids’s Loyalty to Loyalty wasn’t so much a sophomore slump as it was a sophomore plateau, weakly sustaining the unhinged pop sound of Robbers & Cowards without expanding it beyond its various competing qualities—namely, belligerence, coarse emotion, and a touch of morose pining. Those characteristics—combined with Nathan Willett’s plaintive, pained vocals—were once the defining features of the group’s sound, which they delivered in spades on their 2007 single “Hospital Beds.” Nothing the band has produced since has replicated such raw energy or artful desperation, and Mine Is Yours is no exception. Decidedly blander and much less visceral than previous efforts, the album is another step in the band’s inexplicable march toward playing it straight and safe within the confines of plush production values. Which ultimately raises the question: When did Cold War Kids become, let alone aspire to be, OneRepublic?
Mine Is Yours is so monotonously average, in fact, that it’s hard to believe this is the same group that produced “Hospital Beds,” or even the crawling, darkly jazzy highlights of Loyalty to Loyalty, such as “Golden Gate Jumpers” and “Avalanche in B.” Gone is the sinister humor and greasy, noise-laden blues influences, replaced by racing but predictable chord progressions ripped straight from the Bruce Springsteen songbook. Willett’s voice, normally a wail of both animal-like desperation and beauty, has been largely reined in, relegated to singing the same ill-defined melodies that plagues the band’s sagging music. The only track that reignites the flame of Cold War Kids’s previous glory is “Bulldozer,” which literally pauses three minutes in to quickly reassemble itself into a building, sing-along anthem. Here, Willett is finally back at the top of his game and vocally triumphant, however briefly.
Mine Is Yours is not just the questionable effort of a once-promising band, but perhaps even worse: a work of obviously borrowed ideas from a group highly capable of succeeding with their own. Cold War Kids has abandoned what remained of their naked irreverence on Loyalty to Loyalty to essentially co-opt the straight-up rock sounds of Arcade Fire, the National, and Kings of Leon, and predictably so. Thus, having set the bar incredibly high with their earlier work, Cold War Kids falls prey to the expectations game; beyond its forgettable mediocrity, Mine Is Yours is also a crushing disappointment.