I've enjoyed the Cold War Kids debut album, Robbers and Cowards. I can't say I love it, but I think it's a quality debut; intelligent with enough passion to keep me interested about what they're going to do next. I saw them live a couple of times back in the beginning of the year and was not overwhelmed, but I've heard that they've made major strides on the road this year.
Last week, someone sent me an mp3 of the band doing a live version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." I was almost frightened to put it on; indie rock bands doing Sam Cooke songs is scary enough, but covering "A Change Is Gonna Come?" It's sacrilege, right?
Much to my surprise, they pull it off.
The band plays the song with a hint of doo-wop; the twinkling piano reminds me of something out of the 50's. Nathan Willett's vocals are the sound of a guy open enough to know the real thing when he hears it, smart enough to find his own place within the realm of the song and idealistic enough to assert that this civil-rights era anthem can belong to him, too. It's a surprisingly non-postmodern view to have, but I found the following quote on their MySpace page, and then it all made sense:
“The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal:shock disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal.’ To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.”
– David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram” (1993)
This made me like the band a whole lot more. As a dedicated opposite of the irony, studied jadedness and easy cynicism that postmodernism has wrought for the last 20+ years on music and culture as a whole (while simultaneously acknowledging the power and influence that its had), I sure as hell love their point of view. I hope that on their new album, they become more emotionally affecting, further on the edge of conviction and eager to risk the scorn of those who have supported them so far.Download: Cold War Kids - "A Change Is Gonna Come (Live)"