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The Early Vinyl
en: Because of the Times [info]
With the charts re-vitalised by the amateurish din of 'hot new talent', now seems a suitably off-kilter time for elder statesmen, Kings Of Leon, to rock up with a difficult-to-digest third album.
2003's snackable debut Youth And Young Manhood *saw the Kings marking their distinctive Deep South corner in a room of Strokes-style screechy instant hitters. 2005's *Aha Shake Heartbreak came with a moodier, eclectic frame of reference.
*Because Of The Times *is an ever more ambitious affair - and it states it from the outset with 7 minute epic ''Knocked Up'' (their first ever song to run over 5 minutes).
Announcing itself with a stark, stripped riff that echoes the bleak intro to U2's With Or Without You, it racks up the pace with the defiant refrain ''I don't care what nobody says / We're gonna have a baby'' – and it's utterly captivating.
However track two, the Pixies-esque bass 'n squeal assault of Charmer, forces the range of this album wide open – it's expertly navigated by Caleb Followhill's voice. By turns glass-shattering and heart-breaking it brings a unique tone to tales of bad behaviour and true love.
The album's title refers to an annual preachers' conference the boys attended in their youth, and the hick-chic Followhill family are proof that the bible belt can yield a disarming emotional literacy. Current single, On Call is an ode to selfless devotion, with the haunting and hollow eloquence of its refrain: ''When you fall to pieces / I'll come a-runnin''' . Throughout the album there's a running battle between an appetite for destruction and hopeless romanticism. The Runner is Johnny Cash embroiled in a troubled face-off between faith and hellraising – concluding that ''I talk to Jesus / Jesus says I'm OK''.
It's this clever-with-a-kick attitude that will quite possibly deny commercial success beyond mid-teen chart positions. This new sound is simply too evolved for the 'first album' frenzy that renders the likes of The Fratellis and The Gossip so forgettably catchy.
Because Of the Times offers no gloss with its guitars - theirs is a tale of sordid affairs rather than cheap thrills; but ones you'll never forget.