In August 2008, Cold War Kids played their biggest-ever event: the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. At the Denver Broncos' Invesco Stadium, Barack Obama was officially selected as the party's candidate for the forthcoming Presidential election before an ecstatic audience of 84,000. Elsewhere during the four-day showbiz-politico hootenanny, Cold War Kids played on a bill that included Jenny Lewis, Zooey Deschanel, Sarah Silverman and Shepard Fairey — creator of the iconic Obama "Hope" and "Change" posters. At the time the four-piece band — alumni of a Christian college — were promoting their second album, Loyalty To Loyalty. Its title came from the writings of Josiah Royce, a late 19th-century philosopher and proto-socialist from California. Their website proclaimed their enthusiasm for author David Foster Wallace. "The biggest objective Wallace wants to get across is to turn away from a style of writing that is ironical and sarcastic," singer Nathan Willett told me, "and point towards a much more genuine and sincere style of communication. A lot of people have talked about that with Obama — from his mannerisms to his speech, he's a very sincere guy, a genuine character."
Clearly, Cold War Kids nurse lofty ambitions, but little of their smarts and socio-political engagement transferred to Loyalty To Loyalty. Melodramatic and messy, it lacked the lyrical bite and melodic power of 2006's Robbers & Cowards. But with their third album, Cold War Kids have turned things around. Mine Is Yours is a scorching, uplifting 11-song set, one that its gains heft from an embrace of sincerity. Willett is still an engaging lyric writer, but now he's studying the turbulence that arises from personal and emotional politics. "You were changing colors, like the leaves in fall," goes the opening line of the singalong title track. From thereon in, Cold War Kids survey the daily and seasonal fluctuations of relationships, familial and romantic.
Mine Is Yours was produced by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, Tom Waits) in Los Angeles and Nashville. And certainly it appears as if some of his grasp of robust, soulful rock has rubbed off on the band; "Louder Than Ever" bristles with pounding drums and sky-scraping guitars. Their bluesy roots are given a shiny reboot on "Royal Blue", while "Finally Begin" pumps a hearty fist towards Joshua Tree-era U2's grandeur.
It's not all fist-punching or heart-clenching rock though. The programmed beats and sparse groove of "Sensitive Kid" ("The message was bleak, my brother pounded it in me, you climb it up or you cut down, this is your family tree") is a master class in soulful minimalism, while "Cold Toes" Waits-ian rattle'n'roll is equally vivid, and just as powerful. The once precocious kids are becoming men, and Mine is Yours is a marvelously stirring document of the change.