Photo by Danny SimonTHE COLD WAR KIDS
MULBERRY STREET EP
MONARCHY MUSIC CORP
Cowboy Nation was the best Velvet Underground rip-off I ever saw, 10-gallon hats and all, scraping out a New York subway sound for songs about big skies and long rides—the scenery sure didn't fit, but somehow the music sounded just the same, with that raw guitar suddenly as much Hank Williams as Lou Reed. Fullerton's Cold War Kids do this too, cultivating a proto-country-as-post-punk personality like Nick Cave or Tom Waits—or Long Beach's Brett Cutts and Costa Mesa's Matt Adams, who both messed around with a similar sound for a while; it's a natural thing to think of when you're holding a guitar at a certain time of night. Or like the Mekons, whose Western-tourist spirit is all over this band: guys raised on punk and then derailed after puberty into super-bright guitars and wide-open songs (except for certain woolly stretches on "The Soloist in the Living Room," which rolls big burrs of distortion over three little notes), that sort of Texas prairie up a New York state of mind. As per earlier reports, "Quiet, Please!" even pantomimes a riff from the Mekons—the line "Did you read my mind? Did you miss your cue?" even rhymes with the original. But that's fine; I like a band that can slow a song down, that can clear out room enough for a chord to really glow, that takes a lot of deep breaths between verses. With a bad set of jitters, these songs might turn back to something like Voidoids/Velvet Underground/Modern Lovers/Pere Ubu ("Heavy Boots" is an old-fashioned echo of Pere Ubu's Modern Dance; by the way, all those bands are just critic code for "great guitar sound, guys!"). But Cold War Kids take these basically percussive post-punk songs and let them ring right out. It's not folk and it's definitely not "country-punk," but there are some real songs here that could have Loudon Wainwright singing or Tom Verlaine (not Dylan—too nice, still), and I wouldn't know for sure unless I saw them in person and could assess whatever cowboy hats they happened to be wearing.
THE COLD WAR KIDS AT THE BASEMENT LOUNGE, 149 LINDEN AVE., STE. B-100, LONG BEACH; WWW.BASMENTLOUNGE.COM. THURS., AUG. 11, 8 p.m. $5. 21+; AND AT DETROIT, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600. MON., 9 P.M. MONDAY RESIDENCY CONTINUES THROUGH AUGUST. FREE. 21+.
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