You knew it was coming, didn’t you? All previous music posts led here really, to Kings of Leon.
I know everyone knows them, but what if…just this once…we revel in their glory together? You know, instead of doing that thing where I try introducing you to an obscure band that sounds almost like them?
I think I’d like that. I hope you do too.
The band is manned by three brothers, Caleb (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Nathan (drums, percussion, back-up vocals) and Jared Followill (bass guitar, back-up vocals) and one cousin, Matthew Followill (lead guitar, back-up vocals).
It’s practical mythology, their story. The brothers were sons of a traveling preacher who bumped and bounced from one Southern Pentecostal church to another. Secular music was banned and the fear of God heavily instilled…up until 1997, when divorce changed everything. The Preacher left his wife and the Church while the kids fell into the wily ways of illicit substances and Led Zepplin tunes. Soon after, they moved to Nashville and were introduced to the music of the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash. By 2000, ripe with new (to them) rock influences, Kings of Leon was born.
Their earliest work is a Southern Rock and Blues blend but the past five albums shows them expanding into a more alternative and arena rock sound. Albums one and two passed largely unnoticed by U.S. charts and the third, Because of the Times, gained only the slightest ground. That all changed in 2008 with the release of, Only by the Night, where we got the now over-played “Sex on Fire“, “Use Somebody“, and a personal favorite…
I’ll be honest. I’m as guilty as any radio station for over-playing each of those. I still do it. In fact, I’m doing it right this second. I can’t be stopped. Something tells me you can’t either.
2010 saw the release of their fifth and most recent album, Come Around Sundown…for which I may or may not have had a month-long countdown on my calendar set-up…
KoL took a fair amount of heat with this album. Naysayers moaned about it being too polished. Too refined. Utterly inauthentic. In the same way Cold War Kids got flack for becoming a “U2 prototype” with their last collection, it was after this that Pitchfork dubbed them “Y’all 2″.
Admittedly, they were in a difficult position. After Only by the Night and the onslaught of maddening fame, Caleb called their work “a piece of shit”, they refused an invite to guest on Glee and then (vulgarly) insulted their fan base. Spurning commercialism isn’t necessarily bad in rock…in fact, it often results in reckless and unbridled creativity. But if you’re going to damn the music that made you famous, you have to come up with a brilliant replacement.
That doesn’t happen here. Hence the criticism.
Don’t get me wrong…there’s plenty tracks I frequent and I’ll link them below, begging and grovelling that you give them a listen because they’re absolutely worth it.
I like “Y’all 2″. Arena rock doesn’t bother me–just because something is catchy doesn’t meant its kitsch–and honestly, when did sounding like Bono become such a bad thing?
In my opinion, getting bigger isn’t an issue, at least not here. Rather, this album stands as testimony that the band thrives on their newer sound.
For instance, “The Face”, needs a stadium’s worth of sweaty people swaying lighters and singing along in the night.
Plus, it’s only fair to recognize that what made up their original glory–their ability to blend and tweak their sound–is as profound as ever. The fiddle-spiked “Back Down South” hints of their Southern Rock roots. “Mary” almost flippantly toys with doo-wop, and the restless funk-tune “Pony Up” is surprisingly reminiscent of the Talking Heads.
But my favorite part? Caleb’s voice. It’s a perpetually slinky, boozy, backwoods beauty. Turn it on and I could listen forever. It ambles in all the gruff and sexy ways a rockstar’s should, drawing you in and captivating you…quite possibly for forever.
Try not to swoon,