Above: Caleb and the Followill boys storm-troop through "Black Thumbnail," a cut off the brand-new "Because of the Times," which comes out Tuesday.
| KINGS OF LEON
‘Because of the Times’
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Even before they released their debut album in 2003, the Kings of Leon faced a challenge: Create music that is as interesting as the stories and myths that surround it.
The Kings are four members of the Followill clan: three brothers and a cousin from Tennessee with religion, scandal and backwoods pathos in their past. A synopsis of their lives might read: “Three brothers and a cousin start successful band despite spending part of their boyhoods living in a car with their itinerant father/uncle, Leon Followill, a defrocked Pentecostal minister who hated rock music.”
Whether it was the music or their bio or both, the first Kings’ album, “Youth and Young Manhood,” stirred up some heavy pre-release buzz. Its stripped-down vibe, however, inspired lots of lazy comparisons to the Strokes and other rock revivalists of the time. The followup, “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” was more of the same musically but with raunchier blues and better songwriting.
Over the past two years, the Kings toured as the opening act for bands with legends that dwarf their own: Dylan, U2, Pearl Jam. Those shows took the Kings to new listeners and (maybe) new fans and into venues are generally too big for their music, which is best heard in more modest confines (like the Beaumont Club, site of a riotous show in March 2005).
Whether it was the tour or simply the need to try something new, the Kings of Leon are a different band on their third album, “Because of the Times,” which hits stores today. The songs here again address girls and relationships and the dramas within, but musically they are generally bigger, longer and more dynamic. The songs also bear more interesting and elusive influences. Apparently the time with U2 was formative: Matt Followill’s lead guitar emits echoes and insinuations of the Edge’s signature traits: lots of peals, chimes and arpeggios (“McFearless”).
Other resemblances may be accidental, but they are evident. For the first minute or so, the ghostly opener, “Knocked Up,” sounds like something Clinic cooked up. The rampant “Charmer” resembles a few Pixies tunes (“Bone Machine,” “Broken Face”) born on the Bayou; “Trunk” rides an eerie, low-pulse riff that sounds like the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” with a Southwestern accent; and the album’s most riveting cut, “Camaro,” gets a bit prog-rock, the way the lead guitar and the rhythm section march and swing to different tempos (listen to "Camaro" below).