Southern Rock Revolution
In 2003, Kings of Leon released Youth & Young Manhood, a southern-rock explosion of boozy lyrics, raunchy guitars and off-kilter drums that introduced the band and their rebel Rolling Stone-ified image to the world. Five years and four albums later, the Kings find themselves in the middle of an American rock n' roll revolution with their latest release, Only by the Night.
The story begins with three brothers riding a religious highway through the South, road schooled by a Pentecostal preacher [a.k.a. their father] who spread the word of God and sheltered the boys from all that is satanic popular music.
It's funny how things seem to come back around. The Followill brothers, Caleb, Nathan and Jared, along with their cousin Matthew, formed KOL in the late Nineties after their father, Leon, left the church.
The boys are still on the road preaching their own tune, one of rock 'n' roll and all the accompanying demonic pleasures. They have travelled the world with many big names, leaving a trail of indulgent tales to keep the fans and journalists plump, yet hungry for more.
Only by the Nightreflects Kings of Leon's newly obtained stadium status. After touring much of last year with U2, Kings of Leon has established itself as a headlining act and has produced a headlining album. They're still Kings of Leon, but in a bigger way.
The album's first single, "Crawl," is a rollercoaster ride – scary enough to put a funny feeling in the bowels, but stimulating enough to keep riding. Not that it would be possible to get off anyways. The big Bonham-like drums find their spot sitting atop big muffed bass lines made out of quicksand, all the while standing their ground in a hurricane of fierce guitar riffs and flying vocals.
The next track, "Sex on Fire," will help establish the vocal whine of singer Caleb Followill as the most dominant and recognizable in a business full of screams and cries. The desperate emotion laced in the chorus elevated over top huge guitars and reverb-filled drums.
During the mid Nineties, "Sex on Fire" would have been the huge hit that ended up producing a few addicted has-beens. Luckily, it's 2008 and KOL is merely forming habits. However, if the band isn't careful, the video will find itself on TRL being eaten alive by hormonal teenage girls and pop-labeling journalists quick to call KOL "sell-outs." But hey, it'll make a good Celebrity Rehab episode.
"I Want You," gets back to cool. KOL keeps time on a tin can, shamelessly talking love with an R&B-digging lady. The distorted guitar shacks up in the corner, keening – merely helping to sensitize the lobes. Caleb sings as if he's just been convicted of a crime.
He has, actually: Rock 'n' Roll trafficking. Why? Because this album is sure to appeal to the masses, climb the charts and fatten the pockets of everyone involved.
Hats off and beers up to Kings of Leon and Only by the Night.
Find out more at www.kingsofleon.com.