|Kings Of Leon:
Because of the Times Label: RCA Records
Kings Of Leon’s own ad in the latest issue of Spin offers just two words to describe the new album: Ambitious. Eclectic. Miles from its two very worthy predecessors, yet still scoring a bunch of points in the paint, the Followill family reunion dishes up Because of the Times, an album so ambitious and eclectic that you will either love it as much as I do or discard it after one listen because it doesn’t pop and jangle enough.
“We weren’t timid at all,” says Nathan Followill. “Every song showed us something we had inside ourselves that we didn’t know existed, which enabled us to be even bolder on the next song.” Take the manic Pixies-like bass and drum line that opens “Charmer," totally unlike anything from past creations yet it could very well introduce a new era, an entirely new direction for these Kings. Not that the old formula wasn’t working, mind you. See, it takes more balls than ten Followills to smash something up that’s already succeeded wildly and try to make it better.
In this mission, they somehow honor the '90s arena rock sound of U2 on “McFearless," weave a Sonic Youth texture on the first single “On Call," and get a distinct “Dazed and Confused” thing going with the drug-induced “Trunk," all on the same project. And it all works! Nothing comes off as well as “Camaro," though. This one is what every pimply-faced teen who ever picks up a guitar magazine hopes to be able to play in front of 10,000 people. What’s even cooler is that co-producers Ethan Johns and Angelo Petraglia don’t over-engineer anything. As tempting as it must have been to turn “Camaro” into “You Give Love a Bad Name," they park the sonic indulgence and just let the guitars rip. And rip they do, with Jared’s bass chasing Nathan’s machine gun drums all the way through.
Something must have rubbed off the past few years while Kings Of Leon toured with big dogs Pearl Jam, U2, and Bob Dylan. It’s so rare for kids this young to deliver one, much less three, great albums of truly original music. In the case of Because of the Times, original has never meant more. These guys are actually getting bigger by getting broader. They are refusing to stay in one place for very long, opting for unabashed boldness over stale predictability. The result is a diverse and stunning masterpiece.