Kings of Leon

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Youth and Young Manhood (2003), 6.5/10
Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005), 6/10
Because of the Times (2007), 6/10
Only By The Night (2008), 5.5/10
Come Around Sundown (2010), 5/10
When You See Yourself (2021), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

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 Free. 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, and in the trotting and psychotic Spiral Staircase (a cross between AC/DC and ZZ Top); whereas a 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 styles, from 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 arrangements.

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 their tunes: 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 Be Somebody, 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.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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