Album Review

Kings of Leon
Because of the Times
[RCA Records]

On Because of the Times, the Kings of Leon, a four-piece family band from Tennessee, have taken their musical prowess to the next level with a giant, tapered-jeaned strut. Brothers Nathan, Caleb and Matthew Followill, as well as cousin Jared Followill comprise the Kings, who are sometimes referred to as the “Southern-fried Strokes” by critics. With their latest release, the band maintains the grit and simplicity in their core instrumentation that originally earned them this nickname. Consistent with earlier Kings of Leon work, much of the personality found in this batch of songs derives from the electric vocal ejaculations of lead singer Caleb, barely intelligible croons that tend to spin tales of young love on the open road. “Knocked Up” and “Arizona,” the respective first and last tracks on Times, are patient and, with little structural deviation, are reminiscent of driving into a desert sunset.

The most rewarding development seen on Because of the Times is the Kings’ newfound ability to evoke a feeling of possibility – think U2, without the pomp. The band wrote and recorded most of the album on the front porch of their newly purchased farmhouse. The disc is a sonic mimicry of the open plain and employs ethereal lead guitar drenched in reverb to fill the air. Chant-laden choruses with busy bass lines and melodically ascending riffs leave the listener with hope and anticipation – a much more mature sentiment than one gets from listening to the Southern-rock swagger of the Kings’ debut release. The album is a steady progression from rambunctious to resplendent, and thus the album peaks toward the end. The four 20-somethings find themselves chanting in unison at the end of “Ragoo,” “We ain’t even been to the ocean/We’ve been running barefoot in streams.” Though the Kings of Leon haven’t been to the ocean, they’ve definitely stepped out of the garage.


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