on 28 July 2007
They seem to be continuing and advancing they're still along the same road as The Strokes but with their own Nashville style. The Kings of Leon have really done it this time. After the first two albums they have become renowned for their dirty riffs, catchy hooks and front-man Caleb's howling lyrics. But here, on this masterpiece, the Kings have taken things further, putting them on a plateau with greats. Their style has advanced, but they have kept their grimey, Southern vibe and garagey guitars. If "Aha Shake Heartbreak" saw the Kings of Leon come of age, they have well and truly entered fully-flegded greatness here.
The opening track, "Knocked Up", may well be the track of the album. I can't figure out what this track doesn't have, but I can't figure out what it does have. It's unlike anything I've heard before with the combination of the edgy, heart-wrenching, ghostly hook and drums which seems somehow out of synch but just fit. And I could listen to the intro hooks for ever and ever, hearing that bass line tick over and over. This song works just because it does. It could make you cry, but it could also make you jump for joy. It could make you feel determined and above everything, but also down-hearted, sceptical and reflective all at once. "A Kings of Leon fan bigging-up his favourite band with stupid adjectives", you may think. Maybe it is true. But this song does encapture all these things. Also, at over 7 minutes long, it's by far the longest track they have done and if you have seen it performed live, you will know what I mean when I say that they perform it like a chaotic old-stlye jazz band. It's almost as if each instrument just comes in whenever whoever is playing it feels like it, but it just comes together so beautifully. This song cannot get enough praise. Caleb's howls of "Wooooahooowooahwoaaaahwoah" are destined to be cried out by audiences everywhere during live performances and that line actually feels like a hearfelt lyric when he bellows it out. It is pure genius. And the storyline of the song? "I don't care what nobody says/We're gonna have a baby". Along the lines of classic like "Milk", "Trani" and "Soft", it's another tale of grimey debauchery.
"Charmer" follows "Knocked Up" and it takes a totally different turn. It's been compared with Pixies songs and I can't deny that, but it still sees the Kings retain their Nashville edge and the storyline is typically Kings. Caleb's constant shrieking is notable and adds a definite edge to the song but this not one of the standout tracks.
The single, "On Call" follows and, again, I don't feel it is one of the best tracks, but it is very, very good all the same. It is definitely the Kings of Leon experimenting a bit. It isn't their normal style, but there is nothing wrong at all with that. But the following track, "McFearless" is sublime....exquisite...explosive...incredible. The drumming on this track is particularly great and just completely unlike anything they've done before. And the chorus is anthemic to say the least. The explosive electricity that eminates from the guitars will have you listening over and over again.
Simple but beautiful, "Black Thumbnail" reminds me personally of "Four Kicks". Opening subtley with a nice, Kings guitar and Caleb's amazing vocals, it takes shape to be a nice song. And then, just as with "Four Kicks", it erupts. Live, this track is mind-blowing. It needs to be played a full volume when listened to. You get that 15-second kick where you go wild, then the beautiful verse lets you get your breath back before erupting again.
"The Runner" and "Arizona" ses a return to beautiful, mesmeric gems like "Milk". "Arizona" needs particular attention. The end of this song is just phenomenal. I have written before about the glorious way in which Bloc Party can end a song and the Kings do that with class here. "Fans" is the true anthem of this album.
I have probably digressed and talked about individual songs too much. But forgive me after you have listened so you can undertsand why, yet again, the Kings have earnt 5 stars. I don't know whether it's just how Caleb's voice can keep me listening for ever to this great band or whether is catchy, sometimes heart-wrendering guitars make me want to reflect and contemplate things time and time again with these dirty Nasvhille geniuses. Whatever it is, I can't see them going off course. This band makes truly incredible music and I don't expect the next installment to be any worse.
Enjoy this album loud, quite, or just before bed.