Loyalty to Loyalty

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Loyalty to Loyalty
The cover features the band's logo in bold white letters. Behind the logo, there's a picture of a young boy and a skeleton with a screw on top of its head in the backseat of a vehicle.
Studio album by Cold War Kids
Released September 23, 2008 (2008-09-23)
Recorded March – June 2008 at Fairfax Recordings (North Hollywood)
Ocean Way Studios (Hollywood)
Sound City Studios (Los Angeles)
Schnee Studio (North Hollywood)
Tackyland (Long Beach)
Genre Indie rock, blues rock
Length 48:59
Label Downtown, V2
Producer Kevin Augunas and Cold War Kids
Cold War Kids chronology
We Used to Vacation
Loyalty to Loyalty
Live from the Paradiso
Singles from Loyalty to Loyalty
  1. "Something Is Not Right with Me"
    Released: September 1, 2008
  2. "I've Seen Enough"
    Released: October 22, 2008

Loyalty to Loyalty is the second studio album by American indie rock band Cold War Kids. It was released on September 23, 2008 by Downtown and V2 Records.

Following the success of their debut album Robbers & Cowards, the band started recording new material for their next album over the course of four months around California. Taking its title from the paper of the same name by American philosopher Josiah Royce, Loyalty to Loyalty carries a darker tone than its previous album by having songs that deal with philosophies and politics, including suicide, crisis of faith, public security and job satisfaction.

The album received a mixed response from critics who said that it was uneven in terms of songwriting and performance. Loyalty to Loyalty debuted at number 21 on the Billboard 200 and spawned two singles, "Something Is Not Right with Me" and "I've Seen Enough", the former was voted number 38 in the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2008.


Cold War Kids released their debut album Robbers & Cowards on October 11, 2006. The album had garnered a mixed reception from critics who we're either with or against them, the most prominent being Pitchfork who in their review labeled the band as being nothing more than a bunch of "Christians."[1] The response to the Pitchfork review said that it was nothing more than "lazy journalism."[2] Lead guitarist Jonnie Russell agreed with that sentiment by saying: "That seems to be the agenda; not to have a thoughtful reflection on music but to have a sharp angle and a funny way of saying it."[2] To promote the album, the band spent the most of 2007 touring across North America and Europe through appearances at music festivals and talk shows. Bassist Matt Maust commented on the constant touring being way too much and that they we're eager to return to the studio to write on new material.[3]


The album's title comes from the paper of the same name by American philosopher Josiah Royce, in which he challenged Friedrich Nietzsche's ideas about "will to power" and the ubermensch, saying that the ultimate pursuit of mankind should be to live in community and embrace each other, not to try to trample each other and rise to the top.[4] Maust said that he could relate to that phrase with the band saying: "It's very similar to how [we] conduct ourselves, the way that [we] write songs and the way that [we] view each other in the band. No one person is writing for the other person, but we are loyal to each other. We're loyal to loyalty."[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Regarding the songs from the album, Maust said that what lead singer Nathan Willett wrote were a mixture of folk tales from the first album and topical stories from the second album: "A lot of people say the last record was more about yesteryear. This [new record] has some of that, but it's much more today. The characters are people from today."[3] Amongst the thirteen tracks off the album, they deal with a variety of philosophies and politics that range from contemplating suicide, crisis of faith, anonymity, alienation, public security and job satisfaction.

The album opener, "Against Privacy", was described by Willett as a "bohemian manifesto" made by a person with an affinity for the arts and wanting to live on an art commune.[6] The second track, "Mexican Dogs", was written by the band during a trip in Mexico City where they saw a pack of unnamed three-legged dogs running wild across the field. Maust said that he saw it as a metaphor for how the band operates as a whole: "It's the way we conduct business as a band and art as a band. The way we write songs is very community oriented and very democratic."[5] The third track, "Every Valley Is Not a Lake", was a song that was left off their debut album. It tells the story about a mother lecturing her daughter about going wild in the world and the consequences she may face if not careful.[6] The fourth track, "Something Is Not Right with Me", is an upbeat track that's about a person losing touch with the revolving world and its constant changes from people to technology.[6]

The fifth track, "Welcome to the Occupation", is about a teacher limited with his career who strives to be an artist. Willett was inspired by his job as an English high school teacher in Torrance to write the song, saying that it didn't give him "a lot of creative space to really be very inspired to be a teacher.[4] The sixth track, "Golden Gate Jumpers", is about a woman who goes to the Golden Gate Bridge and contemplates taking her life away.[7] The seventh and eight tracks, "Avalanche in B" and "I've Seen Enough", were originally conceived by the band as one-long track but instead cut into two songs. The former uses snow as a metaphor for how bleak and empty it is when its coming straight at you. The latter was created during a jam session in which the band played one continuous chord progression that stuck with them throughout the session.[6] The ninth track, "Every Man I Fall For", is about a woman's perspective on relationships. Inspired by his own mother's relationship with men, Willett saw something he could craft from that emotion: "[And] it’s important to me in ways, because it was something I always saw in relationships; like my mom being a single mother and seeing how men treat these women and how they operate in relationships."[8]

The tenth track, "Dreams Old Men Dream", was inspired by Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Dream of a Ridiculous Man). It tells the story about an elderly man reflecting back on the life he had and what he wished he had done before.[6] The eleventh track, "On the Night My Love Broke Through", was the last song made for the album that was recorded live. It's inspired by the works of German-American poet Charles Bukowski.[6] The twelfth track, "Relief", is from the perspective of a person that questions God's way of controlling the Earth and handling its inhabitants. God himself answers the person's question when Willett sings, "Flash flood, you got too comfortable, so I showed you, who’s really in control."[8] The album closer, "Cryptomnesia", was inspired by a case involving Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov being accused of plagiarism involving his 1955 novel Lolita. Willett said that its an "apt word for the way history seeps into his songwriting today."[9]


The album's first single, "Something Is Not Right with Me", was first released online on the band's Myspace page on July 2008. It was given an official release on September 1, 2008 on iTunes.[10] The song debuted at number 39 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, their second top 40 hit on that chart.[11] A music video directed by Sophie Muller was created for the single and premiered on the band's YouTube page on September 17, 2008.[12] The song was voted number 38 in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2008.[13] The second single, "I've Seen Enough", was released on October 22, 2008 but failed to chart anywhere. However, two music videos were created to promote the single. The first video was directed by Vern Moen and shot in black-and-white, premiering on the band's YouTube page on February 23, 2009.[14] The second video was a collaboration the band had with director Sam Jones (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco) and his production company Tool of North America. The video was interactive and involved each band member playing his instrument solo on a dark stage, with the viewers given free rein to choose which instruments were played and to make their own mixes of the song.[15] The video was nominated in the Online Film & Video category for Best Use of Interactive Video at the 2010 Webby Awards and won the People's Choice Award.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 66/100[17]
Review scores
Source Rating
AbsolutePunk.net (59%)[18]
AllMusic 3/5 stars[19]
The AV Club C+[20]
The Boston Globe favorable[21]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[22]
NME 7/10 stars[23]
Paste 8.3/10[24]
Pitchfork Media 5.1/10[25]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[26]
Sputnikmusic 3/5 stars[27]

Loyalty to Loyalty received generally favorable reviews from music critics but we're divided by the band's musical departure and Nathan Willett's delivery in terms of performance and songwriting. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 66, based on 20 reviews.[17]

James McMahon of NME praised the band for their production and songwriting, concluding with "Almost in defiance of poor sales and cult following, CWK and their charming second album embody everything you hoped music might be."[23] Bart Blasengame of Paste found the album "[to be] more interesting than Robbers and Cowards," praising them for the new direction in their sound and calling it "[It's] a better-than-solid album from a band that seemed equipped to someday make a classic one."[24] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone commended the band for continuing with their blues rock sound, saying "Cold War Kids attack their songs with unusual intensity, infusing even the most nourish, unsettling songs – fractured narratives about hipster bohemia and suicide – with a feeling enchantment."[26]

Rudy Klap of Sputnikmusic gave praise to the production and songwriting, signaling out "Golden Gate Jumpers" with having "one of the record's best lyrics and melodies," but was critical of Willett's performance saying that "his voice can turn from interesting and fresh to grating and intolerable with just a few misplaced falsettos."[27] Heather Phares of AllMusic was also critical about Willett throughout the album, finding his voice "unfettered to the point of grating ("Something Is Not Right with Me")" and lyrics to be "overworked instead of clever ("Against Privacy")" but found some of the songs carried sharp songwriting skills ("Golden Gate Jumpers") and flair ("I've Seen Enough") concluding with, "More often than not, Loyalty to Loyalty takes a disappointing stumble on it."[19]

Commercial performance[edit]

Loyalty to Loyalty was the band's first album to reach the top 50 on the Billboard 200, debuting at number 21 with 22,000 copies sold in its first week.[28] It later dropped to number 74 the next week before leaving the chart.[29] It additionally charted within the top 40 of several additional territories, surpassing what Robbers & Cowards achieved previously. The record debuted at number 20 in Australia before dropping to number 35 the next week and leaving the chart completely.[29] It debuted at numbers 29 and 48 in Belgium and France respectively (whereas their previous album charted at numbers 43 and 79).[29] However, it charted thirty-three spots lower than Robbers & Cowards in the United Kingdom, having entered at number 68 in that country for one week.[29]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Cold War Kids. 

No. Title Length
1. "Against Privacy"   3:45
2. "Mexican Dogs"   3:36
3. "Every Valley Is Not a Lake"   3:38
4. "Something Is Not Right with Me"   2:22
5. "Welcome to the Occupation"   3:21
6. "Golden Gate Jumpers"   3:12
7. "Avalanche in B"   3:46
8. "I've Seen Enough"   2:58
9. "Every Man I Fall For"   4:08
10. "Dreams Old Men Dream"   4:16
11. "On the Night My Love Broke Through"   4:36
12. "Relief"   3:02
13. "Cryptomnesia"   4:01


Adapted from the Loyalty to Loyalty inlay notes.[30]


Chart (2008) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[31] 20
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[32] 29
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[33] 95
French Albums Chart[34] 48
UK Albums Chart[35] 68
US Billboard 200[36] 21
US Alternative Albums (Billboard)[37] 6
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[38] 3


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