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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Two years ago Indie Rock band Cold War Kids burst out of Long Beach, California earning critical acclaim for their first full length CD, it's called "Robbers and Cowards." The follow up just out now is called "Loyalty to Loyalty," the band is gambling with it's success on this album, it's not as radio friendly as their debut, and the lyrics sometimes wade through tough terrain like politics, even like existentialism, not usually the stuff great pop is made of. Lead singer Nate Willett recently sat down with music journalist Christian Bordal to talk about Cold War Kids second album.

(Soundbite from the "Loyalty to Loyalty" Album by Cold War Kids)

CHRISTIAN BORDAL: In the 1800s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was writing about the will to power, and the ubermensch, or superman. Nate Willett, lead singer of Cold War Kids, says that the name of his band's new album is based on the work of a little-known California philosopher named Josiah Royce who was calling Nietzsche out in the early 1900s.

Mr. NATE WILLETT (Lead Singer, Cold War Kids): Josiah Royce in his paper Loyalty to Loyalty was saying that the ultimate pursuit of mankind should be to live in community and to embrace each other and not to try to you know trample each other and rise to the top. And a lot of the songs on the record straddle the line between both of those philosophies.

BORDAL: Don't worry, the Cold War Kids' new album is not a philosophical treatise nor is it overtly political, but when you scratch the surface of his lyrics, you will find Nate Willett pondering issues of personal politics, such as in the song "Welcome to the Occupation" in which he debates the value of being a teacher versus following a more selfish dream to be an artist.

Mr. WILLETT: I was English teaching in Torrance, California, what I experienced being kind of like bound to the state standards of teaching and not having a lot of creative space to really be very inspired and also this is kind of right before we started touring and I very much wanted to be like an, you know an artist and have that kind of freedom.

(Soundbite from the "Welcome to the Occupation" Album)

BORDAL: More personal politics. One of the slow-tempo tunes on the record, called "Every Man I Fall For," is a song about relationships from a woman's perspective.

(Soundbite of song "Every Man I Fall For")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) Every man I fall for drinks his coffee black.

Mr. WILLETT: Coming from a divorced family and my mom was very important to me and I think that I have always been very sensitive to how women - they generally get more screwed by relationships than men do, and even that idea I thought like was that a very sexist idea to say that? I don't think so. You know, I think it's just generally true.

(Soundbite of song "Every Man I Fall For")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) And I fall, I live with what you're saying. It's the last. Too menacing to take. It's the last. Too menacing to take.

BORDAL: For a band that talks about Nietzsche and writes quirky, sparse indie pop, Cold War Kids' first full-length, Robbers and Cowards, did surprisingly well, and that's put some pressure on the band to avoid the infamous sophomore jinx. But Nate insists they're not heading down that road.

Mr. WILLET: The choices that we make as a whole have always been really organic ones, you know to try to grow at a rate that makes sense and not necessarily talking ever about, is there a great single, is this a big breakthrough for us? Is this the next level for us? I mean yeah there is a stress and I guess that the way we deal with it is to ignore it.

(Soundbite of song "Something Is Not Right With Me")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) Something is not right with me. Something is not right with me. Something is not right with me. How am I supposed to know?

BORDAL: Well, no need to get too stressed, because on "Loyalty to Loyalty," the band continues its compelling efforts to take apart the traditional pop song structure. Their wide-open, high-energy arrangements, as with their live show, give all four instruments equal billing, leaving plenty of uncluttered space in between.

Mr. WILLET: The most complimentary thing when people get that there are four instruments and they all have unique voices and in that way that is very atypical of a rock 'n' roll band.

(Soundbite of song "Something Is Not Right With Me")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) I tried to call you collect you said you would not accept. Your friends are laughing cause' nobody uses pay phones. Gave me quarters to select. So I'm on the jukebox again. People dancin'. Shoulda never chose girlfriend.

BORDAL: Cold War Kids are indeed atypical, making indie punk and art pop with minimalist lyrics and intellectual roots that has the energy and pop appeal to get spins on commercial radio and sell CDs check it out.

(Soundbite of song "Something Is Not Right With Me")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) Something is not right with me. Something is not right with me. Something is not right with me. I'm trying not to let it show.

BRAND: The band is Cold War kids. There new CD is called "Loyalty to Loyalty" and lead singer Nate Willet spoke with music journalist Christian Bordal at our NPR West studios.

(Soundbite of song "Something Is Not Right With Me")

Mr. WILLET: (Singing) Crash into the people who're. Sleepin' late into the evening. Reach behind they can hardly find their spines. Crash into the people who're. Sleepin' late into the evening Reach behind they can hardly find their spines. Crash into the people who're. Sleepin' late into the evening. Reach behind they can hardly find their spines. You said it's too late to cause.

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