Kings of Leon
Youth & Young Manhood
These guys may have been dubbed the “southern rock Strokes” or some nonsense, but such a glib label doesn’t really nail the Kings of Leon experience. For one thing, these boys lack both the urbane, updated garage Velvet Underground sound of the Strokes and the technical virtuosity of most of the southern rock heroes. More often it’s bluesy Exile-era Stones and Zeppelin stomp rock that inform the tracks on Youth and Young Manhood.
Still, brothers Caleb (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Nathan (drums) and Jared Followill (bass) and cousin Matthew (lead guitar) definitely have something going here. At the very least they sound like they’ve been rocking for a lot longer than their youthful hirsute appearances would indicate (they range in age from 18 to 23).
On tracks like the opening “Red Morning Light,” the marble-mouthed, southern-accented vocals have attitude and swagger to spare, and the guitars rock with authority. Matthew pulls off a wild speed solo and Nathan proves that there’s just not enough cowbell in rock anymore.
Sure, a touch of the Allmans or Marshall Tucker can be heard on tracks like “Joe’s Head,” but those bands never had a singer shredding his vocal cords Bon Scott-style like Caleb does on several tracks. It’s not always that pleasant to listen to him go on about whatever he’s going on about on a cut like “Trani,” but when that voice is attached to a catchy rocker like “California Waiting,” the results are inspired. The Followills, it turns out, were raised by a Pentecostal preacher named Leon (hence the name and the ability to testify/speak in tongues).
The band shows a softer side on the acoustic blues waltz “Dusty” and a honky-tonk piano-fed hidden track that recalls The Faces. Since Kings of Leon sound like they’ve lived a few rock and roll lives already, it will be interesting to see where they go from here.