The bearded boys of southern garage rock are back. While they might have dropped most of the beards upon the release of their second album Aha Shake Heartbreak, the Kings of Leon have proved that they just get more splendid with age – this, their third offering, being one of the best rock n roll albums I’ve heard in years.
Superlatives aside, the key to Because of the Times is its depth and genuine originality. Earlier Kings albums, as good as they were, predominantly consisted of catchy little country-tinged numbers. Tracks like ‘Fans’ and ‘Ragoo’ treat old listeners to a taste of the old sounding Kings, while the rest of Because of the Times has a totally refreshing sound.
Few bands take the risk of putting a seven-minute track right at the beginning of an album. Not only do the Kings do just that, but they pull it off to such an extent it is in fact the highlight track. ‘Knocked Up’ conjures up vivid romantic images and tells the story of young runaway love as good as any Hollywood tale. Solid storytelling, something which lead singer Caleb has indicated the Kings focused on when writing Because of the Times, is what makes ‘Knocked Up’ so compelling when it so easily could have just been a self-indulgent bore. Producer Ethan Johns, who also produced 29 for Ryan Adams, succeeds in creating an expansive, tense sound that gives a genuine rebellious road-trip atmosphere to ‘Knocked Up’.
The rest of the album is just as satisfying. ‘Charmer’ and ‘My Party’ are brilliant southern punk tinged rock songs that have more depth than anything the Kings have done before, while maintaining the catchy little riffs and distinctive bass lines that appear on their earlier albums.
I have little if any criticism to level at the Followill men. It did take me at least three listens to get into Because of the Times, but that’s more of a compliment if anything. If an album catches you too soon it usually means there is little else to discover on consecutive listens.