Kings of Leon were formed in Tennessee by three brothers
(vocalist Caleb Followill, drummer Nathan Followill, bassist Jared Followill)
and a cousin (guitarist Matthew Followill).
Youth and Young Manhood (2003) offered a brilliant summary of decades
of saloon-oriented roots-rock.
Red Morning Light harks back to
garage-rock of the 1960s and hard-rock of the 1970s, like a cross between
13th Floor Elevators and
Wasted Time is reminiscent of Masters Of Reality's She Got Me.
The wild side is also on display in the
jumping, swinging blues rave-up Happy Alone,
in the trotting and psychotic Spiral Staircase
(a cross between AC/DC and
lighter rural mood surfaces in
the Bob Dylan-ian Joe's Head
and in the jangling existential ballad California Waiting.
The aching lament Dusty plunges into a smoky ghetto joint of the 1940s.
Nothing is original, but everything is delivered with passion and in style.
Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005) leaned towards
the southern-rock of the 1970s and the cow-punks of the 1980s but in a less
eccentric and more intellectual manner.
The easily recognized rhythms and structures of the first album are replaced
by more complex and oridinal ideas.
The emphatic Slow Night So Long is a bit too obvious, but songs such as
Taper Jean Girl and Milk are subtle exercises in
recitation and choreography.
Pistol Of Fire, with its propulsive drums and vitriolic vocals,
Velvet Snow, a hysterical hoedown,
and Four Kicks, a virulent garage rave-up,
return to the first album's immediate appeal.
The standout of Because of the Times (2007) is the
seven-minute Knocked Up,
an atmospheric power-ballad a` la U2,
an extension of their experiments on recitation and choreography,
while the rest is a hodge-podge of different
southern-boogie (On Call) to grunge (McFearless), from
hard-rock (Black Thumbnail) to
disco-punk (My Party), and from
country-rock (the waltzing The Runner)
to southern-boogie (Camaro),
without really excelling at any.
Nonetheless, the album turned them into stars.
What they do best is match
alcoholic/acid vocals and alternating dynamics (Charmer and Fans),
and they almost accidentally hit on the
languid oneiric jazzy soul lament Trunk that doesn't seem to belong
to this album.
It is, however, and intense experience, despite the relatively simple
Only By The Night (2008) continued the trend towards arena-grade productions a` la U2.
The first three songs are emblematic of the extreme guitar noise that derails
floating guitar distortions embrace the wavering croon of Closer;
Crawl is little more than a showcase for guitar noise;
Sex on Fire has
a bit less strident guitar and more emphatic quasi-U2 vocals.
Less noisy songs follow.
The parallel creative threads of guitars, drums and vocals seem to accidentally pen the unlikely equilibrium of Manhattan.
Revelry opts for a more confessional style, and the percussion is the main instrument to follow the emotional journey of the vocals.
Their process lends itself to melodramas such as 17.
Guitar and vocals seem to proceed independently, only marginally aware of each other.
The guitar rarely does more than emit random noises.
Instead it's the drumming that sets the stage for
I Want You and
songs where the arrangement is weak if not counterproductive.
The six-minute closer Cold Desert is an agonizing post-Springsteen-ian lament, with the guitars finally serving a more rational purpose.
Use Somebody is the radio-friendly winner.
Come Around Sundown (2010) consolidated their star power with the
power-ballad The Face, the country-rock of Back Down South,
the soul of Radioactive and the lament Pyro.
Kings of Leon's
When You See Yourself (2021) offers several charming
old-fashioned mellow midtempo rockers
(Golden Restless Age, Fairytale,
The Bandit and especially 100,000 People)
but also too much uniform filler.
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