Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Because of the Times by Kings of Leon

Woah. Kings of Leon, the band that brought you 'Slow Night, So Long', a tale about deflowering a young groupie from boredom then passing out from overindulgence in who knows what, open their new record, Because of the Times, named for a Pentecostal seminar they regularly attended with their preacher father, with 'Knocked Up', a seven minute tale of a young couple on the road, with an impending childbirth, disapproving parents, and, no doubt, The Man hot on their tail. "She don't care what her mama said, no/She's gonna have my baby/I'm taking all i have to take/This takings gonna shake me", this could be the tale of Madonna's ertswhile boyfriend from 'Papa Don't Preach'. Highlighted by a driftng guitar coda reminiscent of something The Edge would play, deep fried and doused in bourbon, this is a true statement of intent.

However, this is a record influenced as much by Thin Lizzy and The Pixies as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Credence Clearwater Revival. 'Fans' is a rollicking yet gentle hoe-down, while 'The Runner' and 'Arizona' are genuinely heart-warming ballads. The latter sounding reminiscent of 2005's terrific contribution by Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. 'Trunk', another tale of melodrama on the road (road music usually something most bands simply assume means complaining about how hard touring is), with it's woozy 'wooo-ooooh-ooohs' is worthy of The Band at its peak.

This is not to say that the record's short of stompers. 'Charmer', 'On Call', 'McFearless' and 'My Party' all keep the tempo up without detracting from the band's newfound dramatic intensity. In fact, they all serve to enhance it, irrespective of the subject matter. Influences shift from 80's new wave to 20's bluegrass, all without a drop of irony or disrespect.

Kings of Leon have shown an astonishing leap forward in musicianship, maturity and skill. No longer the swamp-rock kings of the type who supported U2, Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan, this is a band doing things no one thought they were capable of, and as such have opened up whole new questions about what they can do next.

A new benchmark for 2007 has been set.

4 1/2 stars

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