If you are in the music industry, or you know anything about the music industry, it is highly likely that you are aware of the daunting, potentially career-destroying “sophomore slump.” The term– in the context of music– refers to the instance in which a second album fails to live up to the standards of the first. One of the biggest challenges musicians face is to replicate and improve upon the success of their debut. This phenomenon plays a large role in determining which musicians stay relevant and which do not.
With that said, one thing should be noted: sophomore slumps can, and do, happen to good bands. There can be many reasons for a disappointing second album; a lack of musical talent is not necessarily one of them. Cold War Kids, the California-born indie rock band, are a prime example of that.
Tuesday night Cold War Kids played at Fox Theatre in Boulder. Having once played the 2,400-person House of Blues on tour, the size alone of this 625 person capacity venue indicates the band’s dip in success since the release of their first album, Robbers & Cowards, in 2006.
When it was released, the album was a smash in the indie-rock world, developing Cold War Kids a solid fan base. However, the band seemed to have trouble focusing their sound with their second album, Loyalty to Loyalty, and people noticed. Now, three albums since their first, the band is fighting to redeem their reputation, after failing to follow up the success of their debut.
Maybe, however, discouragement is the best motivation. Cold War Kids played a fiery show on Tuesday night, proving that their commercial success is not an indicator of their musical worth.
What’s interesting about Cold War Kids is that they truly evoke the energy of kids on stage. Nathan Willett (vocals, piano, guitar), Matt Maust (bass) and Matthew Schwartz (guitar, vocals) bounced around with their instruments, kicking, touching and interacting with each other in a way that few other bands do. The only stationary element of the set was drummer Matt Aveiro, who was unable to move around simply due to the nature of his instrument.
The band played “We Used to Vacation,” “Hospital Beds” and their most well-known song, “Hang Me Up to Dry.” As the show came to a close, the audience cheered so loud, it was hard to tell that Cold War Kids have ever struggled with their reputation.
Ultimately, that’s what matters. Reputation and success don’t necessarily measure the quality of a band, and especially not this one. If you have been disappointed by Cold War Kids at any point, your feelings are valid. Maybe they have never surpassed the success of their first album, but if you were avoiding them because of this disappointment, I’d recommend you reconsider. Cold War Kids may never recreate an album like their first, but they continue to put on one hell of a show.